Archives For Book Bites

As I sit and write, this is generally my view. I could of course look out the window to my right, which I often do in anticipation of the mail coming. That’s usually because the mail brings books, which at this point overflow their shelves. Thankfully, those books are most often provided by gracious publishers.

In one sense, this helps build my library. But, in another sense it more often than not contributes to my anti-library. This is a phrase I came across in an article on Inc the other day. Several people shared it, and so maybe you’ve already read Jessica Stillman explain why you should surround yourself with more books than you’ll ever have time to read.

It’s always gratifying to read an article urging you to do something you’ve been doing for over a decade. For a variety of reasons, I’ve built quite the antilibrary. To be clear, these are books you have that you haven’t read. At the end of the day, it should be a

powerful reminder of your limitations – the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about. By living with that reminder daily you can nudge yourself towards the kind of intellectual humility that improves decision-making and drives learning.

Bookshelves should in a certain sense be monuments of your ignorance. I pointed to them and called them that once during a Bible study. When people come over for the first time they will often ask if I’ve read “all those books.” The short is of course no, and I probably never will. I’ve read a good bit of them, but just for realism sake, in the picture above, there are just over 100 books that I haven’t read. And that’s one of 6 bookshelves I have (not all that big). And that’t not counting the thousands of books in my Logos library that I’ll never touch.

This all reminds of an illustration I learned in seminary and why second and third year seminary students are often the worst. I should probably start by defending that statement. In general, a first year seminary student knows in some sense that they don’t know much. But ah, after that first year, they realize how much more they know than their peers back home or in small group at church.

That is when the danger starts because it often leads to “cage stage,” where they are out to correct any and every person who they think is “off track” or “heretical.” This tends to last through the third year, and in some cases into the fourth. Mine was corrected sometime during the third year and it was because I became more focused on what I didn’t know and less focused on using what I did know as a weapon.

A big part of that, I think, is having unread books around me. One of my professors explained this phenomenon by drawing a small circle on the board and then a very large circle. He said hypothetically speaking, the small circle represents how much you know, and the large circle represents how much I know. What does the edge represent?

The edge of course represents the boundary between your knowledge and ignorance. The more you know, the larger that boundary is. As you grow in knowledge you should also grow in recognition of the edge, which is where your ignorance starts. In other words, a thirst to read and learn more can actually lead to intellectual humility if you’re constantly reminded of how much you don’t know. And what better way to remind yourself than to constantly see books you don’t have time to read?

I have found this generally speaking to be true in my own life. I graduated seminary knowing that I knew a lot, but also being painfully aware of all that I didn’t know and had yet to learn. In Stephen Covey speak, what I didn’t know I didn’t know had shrunk considerably.

Along those lines, this is also a round about case for why pastors should go to seminary and not just be self-learners. It obviously won’t always avoid this issue, but I’ve found that seminary trained pastors both know more and are more aware of what they don’t know. Pastors with marginal training so they could plant a church faster, or with shortcut training usually end up landing in a place where they don’t know what they don’t know and it proves dangerous to their congregations and staff. That can and will probably be another post entirely.

At the end of the day, you obviously shouldn’t waste money stockpiling books you’ll never read. But, if you do find yourself with too many books and not enough time, it sounds like you’re probably in good company, if you think of it in the right sort of way. That is to say, the sooner you can admit ignorance, the quicker you can truly begin to learn.


You may have noticed I accidentally posted this last week with only three book titles. Obviously, that was a few days worth of reading, not entire month. And actually, this month ended up being the peak of the year so far. Rather than blurb each of the 20 books, I’m going to list them and then offer brief summary comments. I’m trying to ease back into regular blogging after starting strong in June and then realizing I needed a production break before school started.

If you’re keeping score at home, the 20 books in July brings me to 99 for the year. Well, actually, it’s at 101 now because we’re a ways into August. Anyway, here’s the list of what I read in July:

While there are still a considerable amount of theological and biblical studies in this mix, I think I diversified pretty well. Of the books listed, only 6 were specifically for reviews, which should start rolling out more frequently this fall. Chasing Contentment was for a member offering at Christ and Pop Culture, and you can read my write up here. The rest were primarily pleasure reads, although there are still a few “I feel like I read should read this book because it’s important to what I teach.” You can probably spot those with a quick glance.

The books that I care about on here (i.e. really liked), I’ll be thinking about ways to write about them in the coming weeks and months. My reading will slow considerably now that it’s August and there is prep to be done for both school and SHIFT. I need to get some systems in place and need to do so in the next week or so, but once they’re there, I should be back in a reading routine going into the fall.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people couldn’t tell a very coherent version of the story of western science. Sure, certain names (Aristotle, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein) could be pieced together. But in terms of the flow of thought and discovery, I don’t think most of us are there.

A couple of solutions are available. One is to get Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Or, you could read her section on science in The Well-Educated Mind. There is much overlap between the two, including recommended books. The former is obviously more in-depth, so pick your path wisely.

This is the one section of the book is that is entirely new to the updated edition. It does round out things nicely, and helps to fill the lacuna in most people’s reading diet (is that mixing metaphors?).

As with other genres (novels, memoirs, histories, dramas, poetry), Bauer gives a 20 minute history of science writing (402-434):

  • The Natural Philosophers
  • The Observers
  • The Historians
  • The Physicists
  • The Synthesists
  • The Popularizers

She then helps readers learn to read science books following the three stages:

Grammar-Stage Reading (435-439)

  • Read a synopsis
  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Define the audience and its relationship to the author
  • Keep a list of terms and definitions
  • Mark anything that confuses you and keep reading

Logic-Stage Reading (439-442)

  • Go back to your marked sections and figure out what they mean
  • Define the field of inquiry
  • What sort of evidence does the writer cite?
  • Identify the places in which the work is inductive, and the areas where it is deductive
  • Flag anything that sounds like a statement of conclusion

Rhetoric-Stage Reading (442-443)

  • What metaphors, analogies, stories, and other literary techniques appear, and why are they there?
  • Are there broader conclusions?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated poem and poets list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

With that in mind, here’s the list:

One of the little known facts of a good seminary education is that you learn to read poetry. It is one of the predominant genres of literature in the Bible, although often in books no one reads (e.g. most of the prophets).

While there are some rather obvious differences between Hebrew and English poetry, some of the principles of reading the former transfer to the latter. And, I would add that it can work in the reverse as well.

In that light, what Susan Wise Bauer offers in The Well-Educated Mind may help you read the Bible better. This is actually one of the longer chapters in the book, and begins with some insights on the way language is used in poetry before proceeding like the others with a history of the genre. After covering, novelsautobiographies,  histories, and dramas, this is the second to last chapter (and last in the original edition).

Bauer divides the history this way (324-343):

  • The Age of Epics
  • The First Lyrics
  • Roman Odes
  • Medieval Poetics
  • Renaissance Voices
  • Romanticism
  • American “Romanticism”
  • Modernism
  • Alienation

She then offers the questions you need to ask when making sense of poetry.

Grammar-Stage Reading (343-347)

  • Read 10-30 pages of poetry
  • Read the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Read the preface
  • Finish reading

Logic-Stage Reading (347-351)

  • Look back at the poem; identify its basic narrative strategy
  • Identify the poem’s basic form:
    • Ballad
    • Elegy
    • Epic
    • Haiku
    • Ode
    • Sonnet
    • Villanelle
  • Exam the poem’s syntax
  • Try to identify the poem’s meter (or meters)
  • Examine the lines and stanzas
  • Examine the rhyme pattern
  • Examine diction and vocabulary
  • Look for monologue or dialogue

Rhetoric-Stage Reading

  • Is there a moment of choice or of change in the poem?
  • Is there cause and effect?
  • What is the tension between the physical and the psychological, the earthly and the spiritual, the mind and the body?
  • What is the poem’s subject?
  • Where is the self?
  • Do you feel sympathy?
  • How does the poet relate to those who came before?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated poem and poets list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

With that in mind, here’s the list:

Bauer then lists a few more “must read” poets that are writing after the modernists (and in some cases still writing). But, she notes that history has not sorted out the good from the great quite yet, and so I’m leaving them off this list.


For the first time in a while, I focused more on writing than reading this past month. I had intended to post Monday through Friday all month, and other than last Wednesday and Thursday, succeeded.

I did however still read quite a few books. 12 to be exact, which is 79 for the year. That means I’m more or less on pace to hit my average of 150 for the year. I’m no Don “The Dragon” Carson, but I feel like that’s a solid number.

I’ve more or less given up on the challenge and am just reading what I either want because of research interests, or have to because of pending reviews (which coming back in bigger numbers soon).

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax

This, along with two titles below are part of a research interest in the effect digital technology has on us. I’m curious for personal reasons, but also because of ministering to students. After reading this book by David Sax, I’m gradually personal the analog in my own life and will be making some classroom changes in the fall.

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance by Ben Sasse

I posted on this previously, and saw this review earlier today of this book by Ben Sasse, senator from Nebraska. Because of his emphasis on production rather than consumption, I made a concerted effort this past month to prioritize production before settling into a few weeks of summer of break. I feel pretty good about it, and am hoping I can maintain the habits once break is over.

Grace Alone—Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught and Why it Matters by Carl Trueman

I generally read most everything Carl Trueman writes. I enjoyed this entry in the 5 Solas Series, and appreciated his use of Aquinas early on. I’ll have more to say in a review later.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

This, along with the Revenge of Analog and The Glass Cage, is part of my technology study. I read this over a weekend and immediately deleted social media from my phone, as well as my mail app. I haven’t gotten to the really deep work yet, but I’m well on my way.

Hope for The Same Sex Attracted: Biblical Direction for Friends, Family Members, and Those Struggling with Homosexuality by Ron Citlau

I posted about this in New Books of Note. I have some friends that actually struggle with this and so I’m waiting to say more until I get their insight.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

I’m hoping to have an article on this soon. It is for people in a hurry (it’s short), but it’s also sitting a top of the New York Times Best Seller list. It is also not easy reading, but it’s enjoyable.

Movies are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings by Josh Larsen

I’m hoping to post a review on this later in the week, and tell you how you can get a free e-Book of it.

Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ by Michael Heiser

This is the latest book by Michael Heiser aiming to bring technical biblical scholarship to the masses. I think it succeeds for the most part, although there are few too many page to page and half long block quotes for my liking. I get why they are there though, since in many cases they are the author’s summary of a research article (the author of the article, not Heiser) and so help condense what could be an unwieldy book. As far as content, I’m still processing, but if you come to the college Bible study, you’ll find out what I think.

Christianity: The Biography—2000 Years of Global History by Ian Shaw

I’ll have a highlight of this book in a few weeks.

Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction edited by Justin Holcomb

This series edited by Justin Holcomb that has two more volumes coming out later this year (Sacraments and Salvation). As the title indicates, these are subjects that have multiple versions. The book is ordered historically, and features some superb articles. I’d recommend it if you’re looking to explore the subjects.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God by Eugene Peterson

This is Eugene Peterson’s latest, and a collection of sermons. They are organized according to biblical figure. Readers are treated to Peterson’s sermons from the writings of Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John. The sermons are fairly short when read and so this could be a good devotional reader if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

I’ll have more to say on this in a collected post on the books connected to technology. The short version is that we should all be a bit more reflective when it comes to automation and how it forms or deforms us.

Summer is often a time of refreshing. You might not expect that because it is often miserably hot outside here in Florida. But, I like to do some organizing and cleansing over the summer and this takes places in many domains.

After nearly becoming without form and void, my library was in need of an overhaul. Conceptually, this weighed on my mind for a couple of weeks before I could get started. I try to organize by topic and work with the available shelf space. Also, annoyingly to some, I do not put books in alphabetical order. I simply group them by topic and fit the books into the cubbies as space allows.

Because of that, I can usually tell someone where a given book is off the top of my head. This is always helpful until they borrow the book and I never see it again.

It doesn’t happen all that often, and judging from the pictures below, you’d probably imagine it doesn’t hurt the overall scale when it does.

You can’t quite see it off to the left, but there exists my Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Bryson section that merges into the pop culture collection.

The rest of the shelf is apologetics, which in my mind includes worldview stuff, world religions, history, politics, science, sports, and music. It’s an eclectic blend, but I think it makes the most logical sense.

Over by my side of the bed, I’ve collected some favorite authors:

  • Kevin Vanhoozer
  • Vern Poythress
  • Peter Leithart
  • Arthur Custance (haven’t heard of him have you?)
  • Eugene Peterson
  • John Piper
  • Tim Keller
  • David Bentley Hart
  • David Wells
  • N. T. Wright (popular level trilogy)
  • Carl Trueman

Over by Ali’s side of the bed, I put the marriage books, as well as Christian living and some practical theology (slight difference in my mind between the two). I also have all my counseling books here.

In my office, you’re immediately greeted by some crate shelves with pastoral leadership, business, discipleship, and writing books. You’ll also notice three matrushkas my dad got in Russia. Some might call them Russian nesting dolls, but since they’re football players it doesn’t seem appropriate.

Here by reading chair, you’ll notice some crates with history books, particularly those by Susan Wise Bauer. You’ll also see my beer/food shelf for some research I’ve been doing. On the desk, I’ve collected by study Bibles for easy access.

Here is the theology shelf. Not quite as big as you’d expect right? That’s what happens favorite authors end up filed in other places. Down to the left you’ll notice what is not a currently reading section and a small assortment of church history books that didn’t fit elsewhere.

The much larger shelf contains not only the biblical studies and hermeneutics books, but houses my collection of SeaWorld animals. One is for studying, the other is for inspiration, you decide which is which. You may notice what appears to be a blank cubby, but don’t worry, it has been filled.

And last but not least, the fiction shelf out in the living room. On the opposite is the DVD collection. This shelf also includes Lewis and Tolkein for obvious reasons.

It took about a week, but I think in the end it was worth it. My workflow is always better when things like this are organized, and the aesthetic elements is an added bonus.

First it was novels. Then it was autobiographies. Now, it’s history’s turn.

As with previous sections in The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer begins with an overview of the genre. Here, she distinguishes between several periods in the history of history:

  • Ancient History
  • Medieval History
  • Renaissance History
  • The “Enlightened,” or “Rational,” Approach
  • Positivism to “Progress-ism” to “Multiculturalism”
  • Romanticism to Relativism to Skepticism (and Thence to Postmodernism)

Attentive readers will recognize that the the last two periods are overlapping as the telling of history fragmented according to your particular philosophical bent. The history of ideas and the ideas of history are forever intertwined.

So, when it comes to actually reading a historical account, Bauer again gives questions for each stage:

Grammer-Stage Reading (195-198)

  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Does the writer state his or her purpose for writing?
  • What are the major events of the history?
  • Who is this story about?
  • What challenges did this hero/ine face?
  • Who or what causes this challenge?
  • What happened to the historical hero/ine?
  • Do the characters go forward, or backward – and why?
  • When does the story take place?
  • Where does the story take place?

Logic-Stage Reading (198-206)

  • Look for the historian’s major assertions
  • What questions is the historian asking?
  • What sources does the historian use to answer them?
  • Does the evidence support the connection between questions and answers? [Note: readers of the actual book are treated to a primer on fallacies at this point]
  • Can you identify the history’s genre?
  • Does the historian list his or her qualifications?

Rhetoric-Stage Reading (206-209)

  • What is the purpose of history?
  • Does this story have forward motion?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Why do things go wrong?
  • What place does free will have?
  • What relationship does this history have to social problems?
  • What is the end of history?
  • How is this history the same as – or different than – the stories of other historians who have come before?
  • Is there another possible explanation?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated histories list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

With that in mind, here’s the list:

So far with this list, I’ve got my work cut off for me, having only read Herodotus (would highly recommend). I’ve a copy of the few of the others, but while I’m thinking of it, I might venture to the local used bookstore and see what I can find. Although, you can actually piece together most of this list for less than $100. Not bad for what would be close to a year or more of reading for many people!

Last week, I posted a list of novels from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind. The next section in her book covers autobiography and memoir, which is a bit more complicated than you might think.

After giving a brief overview of the history of criticism of the genre, Bauer guides readers through the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages of reading. Here are those questions:

Grammar-Stage Reading (129-132)

  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • What are the central events in the writer’s life?
  • What historical events coincide – or merge – with these personal events?
  • Who is the most important person (or people) in the writer’s life? What events form the outline of that story?
  • Give the book your own title and subtitle

Logic-Stage Reading (132-137)

  • What is the theme that ties the narrative together?
  • Where is the life’s turning point? Is there a “conversion”?
  • For what does the writer apologize? In apologizing, how does the writer justify?
  • What is the model – the ideal – for this person’s life?
  • What is the end of the life: the place where the writer has arrived, found closure, discovered rest?
  • Now, revisit your first question: What is the theme of this writer’s life?

Rhetoric-Stage Reading (137-141)

  • Is the writer writing for himself, or for a group?
  • What are the three moments, or time frames, of the autobiography? (When the events happened, when they were written down, when they were read)
  • Where does the writer’s judgment lie?
  • Do you reach a different conclusion from the writer about the pattern of his life?
  • What have you brought away from this story?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated novel list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases (e.g. Gulliver’s Travels) to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

I’ve gotten through the Augustine’s Confessions, Meditations, a good bit of Ecce Homo but I need to get back on track:

You might be surprised by what’s included and what’s not. Hopefully you’ll notice that many of the inclusions are from African-Americans. For those of us, like me, who are white and grew up in the South, some of these books might be more worth our time than others.

Also, I can’t think of a better way to have a better grip on where race relations are today than by reading some of these stories. I mean, yes, you can also talk to people, but I am speaking as an introvert who wants to do some helpful summer reading. If that’s you as well, why not select a few titles here and have at it?

Now that it’s officially summer reading season, I thought I’d give you more of a rundown on the lists in The Well-Educated Mind. You may vaguely remember the overview I gave of the opening section. If not, here it is again.

Chapter 5 is “The Story of People: Reading through History with the Novel.” Bauer gives a 10 minutes history of the novel, which you’ll have to actually buy the book to read.

She then proceeds to tell you how to read a novel (beyond merely going from one word to the next in succession until the final page). She gives you tips and questions to guide you through reading at the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stage. Because I don’t want to deprive you of the joy layered reading, I’ll reproduce those below (parentheticals refer to pagination).

Grammar Stage Reading (71-73)

  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Keep a list of characters as you read
  • Briefly note the main event of each chapter
  • Make initial notes on passages that seem interesting
  • Give the book your own title and subtitle

Logic-Stage Reading (73-81)

  • Is this novel a “fable” or a “chronicle”?
  • What does the central character (or characters) want? What is standing in his (or her) way? And what strategy does he (or she) pursue in order to overcome this block?
  • Who is telling this story?
  • Where is the story set?
  • What style does the writer employ?
  • What images and metaphors get repeated?
  • Pay close attention to beginnings and endings

Rhetoric-stage Reading (82-86)

  • Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?
  • Does the writer’s technique give you a clue as to her “argument” – her take on the human condition?
  • Is the novel self-reflective?
  • Did the writer’s times affect him?
  • Is there an argument in this book?
  • Do you agree?

Bauer then offers an annotated novel list. That is good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases (e.g. Gulliver’s Travels) to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

I’m still stuck on Don Quixote, but I think I’ll remedy that this summer and move on to the next. Here’s her chronological list:

I don’t know enough about modern novels to comment on the additions past 1900, but I think it’s a pretty solid list. I’m sure we could add or subtract some, but if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of quality literature, this is a good place to start.

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.