Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Year of Reading

I had another enjoyable and edifying year of reading in 2013. By God's grace, and no small amount of patience from my wife and children, I manage to continue to carve out time for sticking my nose in books. I share the years literary journey with you as a way to encourage you to keep on keeping on in your reading. Perhaps you can find a title or two from my list that you might find interesting. If you would like specific thoughts on a particular book, do not hesitate to ask a question in the comments section.

Big Books
One of my reading goals for last year (I highly recommend setting goals for your reading) was to tackle some heavyweight volumes. The jumbo-size books I chose are as follows:

  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck
  • Kingdom Through Covenant by Wellum and Gentry
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion - Volume 1 by John Calvin

I hope to write a post about reading these large books that will discuss it in some detail. But for now, let me say that there are many benefits to engaging these theological treatises and, despite their intimidating size, lay-people should make these types of books part of the reading routine. I found Kingdom Through Covenant particularly helpful as a reformedish credo-baptist and Calvin's Institutes needs no recommendation from me. Bavinck and Frame are also well-worth the time and effort required.

As an English teacher I believe it is my responsibility to regularly read fiction. I am more inclined to read non-fiction, but I am rarely disappointed when I pick up a novel or play. Leland Ryken has said “Literature is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, interpretation, creativity, beauty, and understanding. These are ennobling activities and qualities. For a Christian, they can be God-glorifying, a gift from God to the human race to be accepted with zest.” And Tony Reinke, author of Lit! gives these four reasons for reading fiction:
  1. Fiction helps us explore abstract human experiences.
  2. Fiction deepens our appreciation for concrete human experience.
  3. Fiction expands our range of experiences.
  4. Fiction provides beauty and creativity to be enjoyed.
Here is my list of fiction for 2013:
  • Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
  • The Chestnut King by N. D. Wilson
  • Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson
  • 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
  • No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Dead Guys
Many will be familiar with the advice of C. S. Lewis on the reading of old books. For those who haven't heard or for those who need a reminder, here is some guidance from the author of The Chronicles of Narnia:
"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books . . .
Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. . . .
It is a good rule, after after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one til you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. . . .
We all need the books that will correct the characteristics mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.
We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century lies where we have never suspected it. None of us can fully escape this blindness. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."
Here are the books, non-fiction, that I read this year past that were authored by dead guys:
  • Communion with God by John Owen
  • On the Incarnation by Athanasius
  • Wingspread by A. W. Tozer
  • Setting Our Affections on Glory by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Holiness by J. C. Ryle
  • The Trinity by Edward Henry Bickersteth
  • An Eschatology of Victory by Marcellus Kik

Preach It
As many of you know, I began an apprenticeship in August of 2013. I am apprenticing to become a pastor and part of my duties-actually thus far most of my duties-have been to preach on Sundays. I took it upon myself to read several books about preaching and found that a very profitable endeavour. Books on preaching include:
  • Preaching for God's Glory by Alistair Begg
  • Preach by Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert
  • Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer
  • Preaching Christ in All of Scripture by Edmund P. Clowney
  • Saving Eutychus by Millar and Campbell

Miscellaneous Non-Fiction
The remainder of my list are non-fiction books almost exclusively from a Christian perspective covering a fairly wide range of topics from leadership to theology to literature to Christian living.
  • Adopted for Life by Russel D. Moore
  • The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler
  • Fallen: A Theology of Sin by eds, Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson
  • Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  • Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt
  • Weakness Is the Way by J. I. Packer
  • Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves
  • Covenantal Apologetics by Scott Oliphint
  • Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman
  • Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs
  • His Blood Works by Alam Stibbs
  • Shakespeare's Macbeth by Leland Ryken
  • Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper

The Pinnacle of Printed Perusing
Finally, and most significantly, I read through the Bible this year. My translation of choice is the English Standard Version and I followed Robert Murray M'Cheyne's one year reading plan. A very helpful tool in this was YouVersion's app that I have on my phone, iPad and computer. I highly recommend this app; check it out. Reading through the Scriptures in 2013 was the zenith of my work in this discipline of reading. It far outweighs all the rest of the reading.

So there you have it; a year's worth of reading. Be encouraged to read in 2014! By setting aside some time each day or week, you might surprise yourself with the amount of literature you can digest in the next 12 months.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative and motivational post. Thanks for sharing not just the what but also the why. I'll know where to come when I need to add something to my to-read list.