Archives For Book Bites

Just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Zondervan’s Five Solas Series is complete. What’s more, you can get a sweet deal on the bundle from Westminster Bookstore.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading thanks to the generosity of Zondervan. My favorite so far has been Thomas Schreiner’s Faith Alone. It was the first to be published and I think represents the goals of the series best. God’s Word Alone is a bit lengthy, though to be fair, Matthew Barrett tries to cover quite a bit of ground. But, for comparison sake, you can see how it stacks up against the other titles in the series.

I posted a few thoughts on God’s Glory Alone, and I’m just getting into Christ Alone and Grace Alone. For the former, I’m interested to see how it compares to Stephen Wellum’s also recently published God The Son Incarnate. For the latter, I’m looking forward to Carl Trueman’s exposition of grace, especially after he changed my mind about Luther.

On the whole, I think this is an important series to track with, although it is certainly not for everyone. If you’re interested in issues related to justification and the New Perspective on Paul, you’ll want to grab Faith Alone. If you’re interested in protecting or defending inerrancy, and historical views on the subject, you’ll want to snag God’s Word Alone. If you’d like a more accessible Christology than Wellum’s more thorough volume, then grab Christ Alone. And if you some classic Trueman, grab Grace Alone.

The whole set might not be for everyone, but it is for me, and thankfully Zondervan agreed and I’ll be finishing it out over the summer and preparing to party like it’s 1517 come October.

This month, I feel like I did a decent job of diversifying my reading. That trend will probably continue going into the summer, although May is gonna be a little crazy.

I added 13 books this month, which is back closer to January and February, with 12 of the 13 hitting categories in the challenge. That also means I hit 50 for the year. Most of these I read cover to cover this month, but a few (you’ll notice them) are much longer and it just happened that I finished them in April.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (a book about current events)

Here’s what I already wrote on Rod Dreher’s book.

Last Adam: A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (a book about theology)

This was another part of my pre-Easter reading. I’ve got a post in the works about how this fills in a significant lacuna in another semi-controversial book that just came out. I’ll keep it ambiguous until then.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (a book about history)

I don’t often read brief histories of humankind. Much less do I read radical gay vegan takes on it, that go where only Nietzsche and Foucault dreamed of going. Yuval Noah Harari is probably a presuppositional apologetist’s best friend because he starts with atheism and then consistently traces out how it would apply to the human species and their cultural products and practices. I need to trace that out more, and hope to do so soon.

The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Courses (a book recommended by a friend)

You may notice an uptick in beer related reading, but I’m not quite ready to explain why. Let’s just say it is actual research, and also attempting to understand one of life’s simple pleasures.

An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans

If Michael Bird writes a book, I’ll probably read it and tell you about it. I need to do a more formal review of this one, so I’ll wait and tell you more then!

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (a book of your choice)

I spent the better part of Easter weekend finishing this up and it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I would highly recommend wrestling with Fleming Rutledge’s work. While it is a theology book, it is conversational in tone and culturally saavy in references and anecdotes. In other words, this isn’t your typical 600 page theology book. I wouldn’t say I quite agree with everything she wrote, and this post from Andrew Wilson explains a good bit why.

Know Why You Believe (a book about apologetics)

I’ve got a review of this third volume in the KNOW series from Zondervan in the works. It also made for a great read during Easter weekend.

The Triunity of God (Vol. 4 in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics) (a book you have started but never finished)

This represents finishing Richard Muller’s massive study in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. I can’t really summarize my thoughts here, but I can let you know that an updated version of this series is coming out soon(ish) that will include two new volumes. If you’ve thought about getting them, wait until then (because $500 on Amazon is not worth it)

Reformed Dogmatics Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (a book your pastor recommends)

When I graduated Dallas in 2011, I got Bavinck’s four volume Reformed Dogmatics. I would wish that everyone who fancies themselves a theologian would take the time to work through these volumes. Maybe not drag it out as much as I did, but if you read one multi-volume systematic, make it this one.

Paul and His Recent Interpreters (a book you own but have never read)

This was originally going to be part of N. T. Wright’s fourth volume in the Christian Origins and The Question of God series (otherwise known as PFG). But, it became its own volume and came out later. I got a review copy from Fortress, so I’m going to share more in a seperate post.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (a book about Christian living)

I did a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture, if you’re a member, you can get it for free!

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (a book for teens)

Once again, I’ll have more to say on this one in a review. But for now, it has become a late addition to my textbooks for next year but it was written by an 18 year old girl and it makes good on the promise in the subtitle.

Reality Is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (a book of your choice)

I’m not sure I can actually explain where I’m at on this one. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a popular level physics book. On the other hand, I had a hard time understanding it and people tell me I’m smart. I think it might be because of how much of a paradigm shift it is (time and space don’t exist the way you think they do). But, as I’m about to embark on an Interstellar re-watch, I’ll have more thoughts down the road I imagine.

If you’re keeping score at home, I’ve now posted on 3 consecutive NIV Study Bibles from Zondervan. First, it was the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Then it was the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Now, it’s the Faithlife Study Bible.

If you’re not familiar (and even if you are), Faithlife is the parent company of Logos Bible Software. As such, this is a resource that has been available on Logos for a while, but not in print. Actually, the idea goes back to 2011. Since then, the notes have been edited and expanded by a team of collaborators, so much so that there are not authors listed for the notes like most study Bibles. There are major articles by specific authors, but the notes are truly a team effort more so than other study Bibles.

In addition, there is a strong visual element to this study Bible. Not that other study Bibles don’t have graphics and/or illustrations. But, it seems to be more of a focus here. You can get a feel for that by browsing the sample that is offered here (also see the infographics offered here).

As you browse that sample, you’ll notice on pages 34-35 that there is an article on How to Study The Bible. While it might seem germane to point out, the purpose of a study Bible is to help people study the Bible. The problem that is often encountered is that people don’t just naturally know how to study the Bible (probably because we don’t always teach how people to study books well in general). While the Faithlife Study Bible provides answers to questions readers will have, it also hopes to help shape readers into study-ers, as they learn how to take their study into their own hands.

From what I’ve gathered, it seems like the Faithlife Study Bible fits somewhere between the aformentioned ones. It retains a good bit of cultural background info (maybe more so than a typical study Bible), but that’s not the main focus. On the other hand, it aims to provide good introductory articles, as well as a side articles on topics important to theology, biblical studies, and even discipleship. It manages to do so with being too bulky, or overwhelming the reader with information. In short, it might be one of the best introductory study Bibles you could give to someone. While I think I’ll always be partial to the ESV Study Bible, I’m going to be checking this one out a little more thoroughly in the coming weeks and months to see if my initial impressions prove true, and if it just might sway me to change by loyalty.

In the meantime, check it out for yourself, and enjoy the video below with Q&A on the book with Michael Bird!

In June of 2014 I hit a wall. Not literally, but my life came to a halt. As a teacher, I had the summer off. But it was all I could do to get out of bed each day and try to summon the energy for productivity.

If you can relate to that feeling at all, you might want to check out David Murray’s Reset. I was able to read it and do a write-up for Christ and Pop Culture and you can read the rest of what I said there.

I noted it in passing in the write-up, but this book is primarily for men, and primarily for men in ministry. Murray’s wife is a family physician and there is a follow-up for women (Refresh) coming out soon (as in October).

I also noted that while he is writing to men, it is mostly common sense advice that applies to everyone. We live in a burnout culture, and if you don’t believe me, you should read this. You’ll learn fun facts, such as, how many people have experienced it, what the most likely occupations are to experience it, and how long a typical season lasted (mine lasted about 6 months and included a trip to the ER).

I thought the second chapter was the most valuable. There, Murray lists warning signs to keep in mind. Those lists are available here. If, in the course of reading through them, you realize you have a problem, I’d recommend picking up this book by Murray. You can watch the video here to get a bit more of his heart behind writing. The book is either under $10 if you get it on Amazon, or it’s free if you become a Christ and Pop Culture member. I’ve benefited from Murray’s writing and ministry in the past few years and hope you can do the same!

Unlike most months, I did a fair amount of re-reading in order to polish up my ETS paper. In light of that, I only finished 9 new books. I know right? Really slacking off here. Some of these I’ll comment on in more detail later. Also, I left off the categories this time because I think I only read more theology books so I probably didn’t any new category unless we want to get creative with some of the N. T. Wright books (like categorizing them as young adult fiction or something similarly savage).

I’m actually in California right now, draining a Trenta cold brew as quick as I can to make up for jet lag and something less than four hours of sleep. By the time you read this, I’ll be somewhere around downtown San Fransisco, helping keep track of a bunch of high school seniors. Or driving to Yosemite. Depends on when you read.

UPDATE: I added categories to the books below

Anyway, here’s the 9 books (total of 37 for the year) I’ve gotten to in the 2017 Reading Challenge:

Summa Philosophica (a book of your choice)

This is the first Peter Kreeft book I read in a while, and it was quite enjoyable. As an intro to important philosophical questions and a different style of argumentation, it’s a great book. Highly recommend!

The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle (a book about the Bible)

SPCK sent me this for review and it was super helpful to read right before ETS. I’ll have more to say about in a formal review, but it is basically N. T. Wright saying N. T. Wright things in response to select reviews of his massive book on Paul. It also serves as a good intro to some of his main lines of thought on Paul, and might be the place to start with Wright if you haven’t wrestled with him.

Prophet, Priest, and King: The Roles of Christ in the Bible and Our Roles Today (a book about theology)

P&R sent this along for review, so I’ll save most of my comments. The threefold offices of Christ deserve more study and attention and this book by Richard Belcher is a good place to start.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation (a book of your choice)

This is the first volume in a new series by Christian Focus called Reformed Exegetical and Dogmatic Studies (R.E.D.S.). J. V. Fesko outlines the historical understanding of the doctrine of imputation before a section on exegesis from the Old and New Testaments and then a final dogmatic formulation that is sensitive to modern discussions on the historical Adam. I won’t spoil the whole thing, but he doesn’t break new ground from a traditional Reformed perspective.

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (a book with one word title)

I’ll have a write up on this for Christ and Pop Culture soonish since it is going to be a member’s offering. If you haven’t become a member yet, you should do so you can read it!

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (a book of your choice)

This book was interesting to read in tandem with Fesko’s. I like Matthew Bates’ writing style, and his proposal here gives me some pause on issues I’ve been reflecting on for a while. I’ll probably do some more extensive writing about it since I noticed a lacuna in his seemingly thorough presentation of the gospel (I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with active obedience of Christ).

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (a book over 400 pages)

I don’t think I’ll have anything to say about this that goes beyond Michael Horton’s review or Dane Ortlund’s reflections. It is in some sense a classic book by Wright. Well written and provocative, it is has a good deal of false dichotomies and writes polemically against unclear opponents. If you’re new to Wright, I wouldn’t start here.

John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 3 (a book of your choice)

I’ve almost reading everything John Frame has written. Almost. There are several gems in this one. Good stuff on Van Til, not being a jerk in seminary, you know typical Frame. I’ll have a more complete write-up soon for a new series I’m starting.

Reformed Dogmatics: Christology (a book more than 100 years old)

On the plane ride over here, I caught up on some of my Logos reading plans and happened to finish this one up. I’m now getting into the volume on soteriology, which I kind of wish I had tapped into during the research earlier this month. But, no matter, Vos is worth digging into, even if it is not the most riveting layout of the material (Q/A format).

About 4 years ago I thought I was done. At the time, it had been five years since my critical review during a Trinitarianism class at Dallas (you can still see the cage stage). The book had been picked at from every angle, including this genius collection of reviews. But now that they decided to make a movie, we find ourselves talking about The Shack again.

At this point, I think I’ve said everything I need to about the book itself. Here, you can read the page by page breakdown in my review, but you probably don’t need to do that. With the popularity of The Shack back in the public square, I think it’s helpful to think through why it’s popular as well as divisive. People either love it, hate it, or haven’t heard of it. Maybe a small minority are in some kind of ambivalent category.

Maybe.

The book provides an occasion for looking into two issues. The first is why I think people like books that are less than orthodox in theological content. The other is why you may have a hard time convincing someone to look at the book differently after they’ve decided they like it. Let’s take those in turn, as I draw on some old posts.

If a person likes, no scratch that, loves a book, it comes down to this: people like books because that impact them in some significant way. People will recommend books that they simply enjoyed reading, but they will enthusiastically recommend books that impacted them personally. Often they may feel like God used the book to teach them something new, and here’s the other thing to keep in mind: He very well might have.

For a more specific take on this, consider Paul Maxwell’s thoughts. He offers one reason the book is so powerful when he says,

For those who have ears to hear, this story is a meaningful exploration of the traumatized male psyche coming face to face with a God who feels very much like his own abusive father. Ideal or not, more Christians can relate to this than would publicly admit it.

You should read his whole take/review of the movie because I think it’s an important and interesting minority report. He gives reasons why it might be useful, but never urges you to go against your inclinations or your conscience if it is already set.

In any case, if you happened to have the particular experience that Paul highlights, you would probably like The Shack in a much more intensive way than a casual reader who didn’t relate. A person will like a book in a significantly different way when it impacts them at the spiritual level (i.e. they felt like God worked through it to show them something), than if they just thought it was doctrinally accurate or practically helpful in the abstract. Very often then, I think people like a book like The Shack because it helped them personally, and in this case it has to do with questions about pain and suffering and the goodness of God.

There are unfortunate other cases where I think this can be an example of postmodern ethics sneaking in the backdoor of evangelical practice. What I mean by that is that the quality of a book is judged by its usefulness, which can be a pragmatic approach to truth and value. A purely pragmatic approach wouldn’t care whether a book is unorthodox by objective measures, so long as it is personally useful. Truth and goodness are in the mind of the reader in this case. Nietzsche would be so proud.

If that’s the case, the persuasion just got infinitely trickier. Now, you’re not only trying to convince someone the book is bad, you’re having to dismantle their latent worldview in the process. In those situations, the reason they like the book may have little to do with the book itself and more to do with a faulty approach to knowledge and ethics. Fix that and the book problem gets better. Leave it alone and nothing will ultimately change. [Side note: I think many critiques just assume this is the problem with why people liked the book and so use words like discernment in the title, expressing the need to educate the heretical inclinations out of people]

Assuming the reason someone likes a book like The Shack is more benign, it is still not easy to convince someone their view of a book is wrong. And that might not even be the best way to go about things to begin with. While not as radical as a paradigm shift, you are asking someone to dismantle an emotionally laden belief about a book. As such, you need four factors in place (I’m adapting something from this old post if you want source info):

  1. There must be dissatisfaction with their current opinion
  2. The new perspective/opinion must be make sense
  3. The new perspective must also resonate emotionally
  4. The new perspective must seem to be a more fruitful way to view things

Obviously this means you’ve got your work cut out for you at the persuasive level. It is hard to get past that first point unless you take a question based approach, which most people don’t initially do. Then, you’ve got to present the alternative in a way that resonates emotionally, which isn’t often the strong suit of the critics of a book like The Shack. You end up seeming like an insensitive jerk just because you care about orthodox theology. [Side note: You may actually be an insensitive jerk and so should address that log before dealing with the speck of poor reading choices.]

But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be that way. Exhibit A: Tim Keller. It would be interesting to see how well The Shack did if people could have read Keller’s book on suffering around the same time. It also has narrative elements (that were maybe prompted by The Shack), but presents a much more robust and orthodox theology of pain and suffering. If we lament books like The Shack being prominent, part of the solution is for the orthodox guys to try to be more engaging writers and write for the person in the pew and not the pastor or professor. And thankfully, that’s exactly what Keller seems to be doing (endnotes aside, since those essays are for people like me I think).

Ultimately, I think we need more keen theological minds working on bringing engaging theology to the masses. Otherwise, we are stuck with books like The Shack being prominent. They fill a vacuum and are more easily understood than the bulk of books being written by theologians today. Rather than try to persuade someone that their opinion of a book like The Shack is wrong, I’d like to be able to offer a better reading alternative and open up a dialogue (to be cliche for a moment). While I spoke in generalities above about why someone might like the book, it is always better to understand why a particular person liked a particular book and then engage that person face to face if possible.

But I suppose, like Mack, one can dream at least…

At the end of February, Jeff Vanderstelt’s follow up to Saturate was released. The book, Gospel Fluency, might seem to be yet another “gospely” book in an otherwise saturated market (sorry). However, as a reviewer at TGC noted, “Gospel Fluency is the book we didn’t know we were missing from the gospel-centered canon.”

The subtitles go a long way to different the two books. In Saturate, the focus was on “being disciples of Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.” It is one part how to be a disciple and one part how to make a disciple (they go hand in hand). As I noted in my review,

Discipleship is presented as a process of being progressively saturated with the ways of Jesus. By being intentional, we can use the mundane moments of daily life within a community of Christians to help disciple each other along the way.

When it comes to Gospel Fluency, the focus becomes “speaking the truths of Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.” It is not strictly speaking a sequel, but you should notice the continuities between the two. Explaining the nature of fluency, Vanderstelt says:

You gain fluency in a language when you move from merely translating an unfamiliar language into a familiar one to interpreting all of life through that new language. In a sense, the new language becomes the filter through which you perceive the world and help others perceive your world and theirs (40).

In my review, I compared this to taking Greek and Hebrew in seminary where for the most part the goal is translation skill. While certainly helpful for understanding the Bible in the original languages, you don’t usually leave seminary with the ability to speak either language conversationally, much less be considered fluent.

As Christians our goal should be more than translation. It should even be more than being simply “gospel-centered” whatever that exactly means (not my favorite phrase). We should seek gospel fluency and by that I mean we should be able to think and speak about all of life in terms of the gospel. It’s really just an advancement of thinking theologically.

If that’s something you’d like to explore more of, you could pick up a copy of the book. Or better yet, you could join the Christ and Pop Culture members group. Does it cost money to be a member? Yes, it’s $5 a month. But, you would get a free copy of Gospel Fluency, as well as a couple of other member offerings. You’d also get access to a member’s forum where you can get a chance to bounce ideas off other like minded (and not so like minded) Christians. And, you get to read some really great articles that attempt to think theologically about pop culture.

I was able to get my copy of Gospel Fluency free thanks to Crossway. You should get yours thanks to Christ and Pop Culture after you become a member!

It’s hard to believe we are already a month into 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun I guess.

Unlike last year, I’m not going to reproduce the entire list of the 2017 Reading Challenge each month. Instead, I’ll just offer a quick blurb on each book I read. I’ll also note whether the book came from a publisher, whether I might post a more complete review, and what category in the list it fits. Sound good? Alright, here we go…

The Righteous Mind (a book about a current issue)

This would have been one of the best books I read in 2016, but I didn’t complete it until the first week of January. Jonathan Haidt offers excellent psychological analysis of values. In doing so, he helps explain how people can disagree so sharply about politics and religion (hence the subtitle). I’ll probably need to go into more detail on this one at some point because it is definitely worth the time investment.

The 4-Hour Workweek (a book about productivity or time management)

I heard the hype of this Tim Ferriss book for a while, but finally decided to check it out. While I’m not necessarily trying to trim down to four hours of work a week so I can live anywhere and join the new rich, I do want to work smarter with my time. Ferriss’ book is good toward that end and you can implement some of the basics of his system regardless of your overall goals. See also the critique of his approach in What’s Best Next.

The Social Animal (a book about science)

David Brooks is one of my new favorite writers. I enjoyed this books which was basically a short story about a guy named Harold and his wife Erica that takes every opportunity to offer neuroscientific commentary on their unfolding lives, both together and apart. I really like Brooks writing style, and this book is basically an opportunity to gain the insights from many popular level psychology books, but with the information set in an engaging narrative frame.

A Quest for Godliness (a book about written by an author with initials in their name)

It’s J. I. Packer extolling the virtues of the Puritans. What more could you want? I’ve unfortunately not read much of Packer or the Puritans (directly) and I’m trying to remedy that here and there.

What About Free Will? Reconciling Our Choices and God’s Sovereignty (a book published by P&R)

Nothing seems to be more divisive in our junior Bible classes than discussing predestination and free will. Thankfully, this book came courtesy of P&R a while back. I finally got around to reading it before our section on election, and when I get to that post on recommended readings in this area later this week (hopefully), I’ll tell you more about this book.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different Than Us (a book targeted at the other gender)

This little gem from Jen Wilkin is both well-written and enjoyable to read. You can tell from the introduction it was written for women, but you should read this regardless of your gender. I was able to read this thanks to Crossway and can see immediately why it won awards. It is an excellent primer on the attributes of God that is theologically rich and accessible, a rare feat indeed.

Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (a book of my choice)

More David Brooks goodness. I’m somewhat working in reverse chronological order since I read The Road to Character first, then The Social Animal, and then this. I’m working on Paradise Drive at the moment and then I’ll be caught up. In this particular volume, Brooks analyzes the sociological factors that shaped upper class America in the latter half of the 20th century in order to explain the tastes and customs of bobos (bourgeois bohemians). Would have been more interesting 10 years ago, but still relevant.

Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry Frees From Sin and Fuels The Christian Life (a book about Christian living)

If you’ve had questions about how grace and law fit together in the Christian life, this book is for you. I’ve read quite a few on the subject, and this is the best introduction to the subject at a practical, lay level. I’m really glad Crossway sent me a review copy and I’ll have to tell you more soon.

Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (a book used as a seminary textbook)

I’ve been working on Richard Muller’s four volume series for a while, and finally finished volume 3. I read a good bit of this last year and am hoping to finish up volume four by the end of the semester. This is not exactly riveting reading, but it is an important resource for people who want to be sharp theologically when it comes to this particular time period.

The Accidental Anglican: The Surprising Appeal of The Liturgical Church (a memoir)

This was an interesting read thanks to IVP. We left the church we had been at for the past five years and have been doing some ecclesiological exploring. I’ll have some blog posts on that in the near future and will mention a bit more about Anglicanism then. If you’d like to read an accessible conversion story from a former Charismatic, this book is for you.

His Love Endures Forever: Reflections on the Immeasurable Love of God (a book published by Crossway)

Similar to the book above by Jen Wilkin, this one by Garry Williams goes deep with attributes of God, but in an accessible way. They made for a great tandem read. Crossway did me a solid and sent both, so we’ll see about a further post in the coming weeks.

Introduction to World Christian History (a book about church history)

Thanks to IVP, I was able to read this introduction by Derek Cooper. I had taken several church history classes in seminary, but this focused more on the margins of the normal church history narrative. It’s a relatively short read, but is especially interesting if you like geography and learning about how Christian expanded and diversified through the centuries.

Union With Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (a book about theology)

I only read this because Tim Keller blurbed it. And boy, was that a good choice! This is a pretty neglected doctrine, especially at the practical level. Yet, when one thinks of “in Christ” language in Scripture (especially in Paul), there could hardly be a more important subject. If you’d like to remedy the gap in your understand about what this doctrine is and why it’s relevant to you personally, this is the book for you.

Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (a book about evangelism)

This was an interesting read. Helpful as an overview to evangelism (it’s designed to be a textbook), but still relevant to someone who has taken classes on the subject (me). It’s part theology of evangelism and part how to do evangelism organically. Because it is designed to be used by a wide variety of Christian traditions (and some I wouldn’t consider actually Christian), readers might quibble with some of the analysis and application. But on the whole, it’s a fairly useful book on a semi-neglected subject.

One of the most influential books I read is Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had.* It’s been about 10 years since I read the first edition, and now there’s a slightly updated and expanded version.** I decided to revisit this newer version and will post some lists from it in conjunction with the 2017 Reading Challenge.

As you might imagine, the path to a well-educated mind involves quite a bit of reading. But, it is reading in a certain mode. To explain, Bauer takes 4 introductory chapters just going over preparations one needs to make in order to succeed. It is here that she presents 4 steps to a well-educated mind. They are:

  1. Schedule regular reading and self-study time
  2. Practice the mechanics of reading
  3. Practice taking notes as you write and then summarizing
  4. Practice grammar-stage reading skills

It is worth noting that these are the same steps you need to take with reading for a Ph.D program. I’ve got the first two steps down, but habitually struggle with step 3. When it comes to step 4, I do about half of the six principles of grammar stage reading. I bet you were curious what that entailed, right? In order to read well at the grammar stage, you should (54-55):

  1. Plan on returning to each book more than once to reread sections and chapters.
  2. Underline or mark passages that you find interesting or confusing. Turn down the corners of difficult sections; jot your questions in the margin.
  3. Before you begin, read the title page, the copy on the back, and the table of contents.
  4. At the end of each chapter or section, write down a sentence or two that summarizes the content. Remember not to include details (this will come later)
  5. As you read, use your journal to jot down questions that come to your mind.
  6. Assemble your summary sentences into an informal outline, and then give the book a brief title and an extensive subtitle.

These steps could be applied to any books you seriously read. If you apply them to the books in the 2017 Reading Challenge, you’ll definitely read less books, but probably have a richer experience in your reading. It’s honestly what I would recommend, as well as keeping an eye out for my next post that will have her list of recommend novels that you can plug into the challenge.


*You owe it to yourself to check out her three volume (hopefully soon to be four!) history of the world:

**Because I hope you’re curious, the main expansion has to do with adding a list of science books. These come primarily from her other most recent book, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Much of the rest of the material is more or less the same. I went page by page through it for comparison and since page numbers track very closely, there is little there is new other than the science section.

recommeded-reading-challies-header

October was a month about getting back in the groove. It took the better part of the month, but I think I’ve finally gotten into a good flow. In a rare turn of events, I even had an entire weekend where I was mostly at home and mostly reading. It was also almost fall for central Florida (i.e. 50’s overnight and clear skies and under 80 during the day).

I’m starting to achieve more focus on my reading and will maybe have a post or two about some new strategies I’m implementing. For now, here’s what I read in October for Challies Reading Challenge:

If you’re keeping score at home, I’m up to 75 books in the lists below, but I’ve read 147 new books total this year.

Here’s the whole list, in case you’re curious (and even if you’re not):

THE LIGHT READER (9 BOOKS)

THE AVID READER (12 BOOKS)

THE COMMITTED READER (17 BOOKS)

THE OBSESSED READER (37 BOOKS)

(image via challies)