2021 Reading List – 2/4

2021 Reading List – 2/4

We are now halfway through the year and this is a good chance to revisit any goals you set back in January. One of my goals for 2021 was to read at least one hundred books this year. So far I’m two books ahead of schedule! If reading is one of the areas you want to spend more time, here are my thoughts on what I’ve read so far. I hope it provides ideas for your next great literary adventure.

Below are the books I’ve read since January of 2021 with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher.

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Dear God

I recently finished the book Dear God by Bunmi Laditan. It’s a collection of prayers to God and makes an easy read. But don’t let that fool you as to the depth in which these prayers go. Few books I’ve ever read capture such brilliant extremes of both humor and raw honesty. This book will show you why it’s important to also read authors who aren’t white males.

Not only does the reader feel a connection to the author throughout the book, I could not help but feel closer to God as I read through her prayers. It feels like a modern-day book of Psalms (with a bit more humor).

Here are a few examples:

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Life, Death, and Dogs

We said goodbye to our dog of seventeen years this week. Getting a dog was one of the first ‘grown up’ things we did as a married couple. I couldn’t have imagined she’d live to be that old and that we’d share so much of our life with her. We got Chloe before we even had kids and now we suddenly feel the missing piece.

Admittedly, I was a bit surprised by how much her death wrecked me. I’m not necessarily a dog person. Especially once we had a kid (and then four more), our dog seemed to be further down the priority scale. Yet her death put many years of connection into perspective for me. The dog who never showed aggression toward any of our kids, despite the sometimes rough play with her. The dog who walked neighborhoods with me at night as I listened to audiobooks (and went through the Harry Potter series in two different states). The dog who was constantly walking around our house so that the sound of her nails on our floor was the soundtrack of our lives.

Chloe had dramatically reduced eating her food and had become somewhat of a skeleton. Her hearing went out long before that. Most recently, she stopped being able to climb our stairs and then struggled to even make the half step up into our house from the backyard. Her breathing was labored and we often felt pity for what she must be going through. She had a heart murmur and was developing cystlike growths. We started talking about the fact that she would die soon so that our kids could begin processing it. They started asking us—and others who came over to our house—if they’d see her again in Heaven (my answer is yes).

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Looking Both Ways

I was invited to contribute a chapter to a recent book called Looking Both Ways: At the Intersection of the Academy and the Church. The book was made in honor of one of the best college professors I’ve ever had named Dr. Joe Grana. Dr. Grana’s work and influence on others would be impossible to measure as they have affected so many people in profound ways, myself completely included. He recently retired after fifty years in ministry and education and this book was a chance for us to honor him.

The book explores a variety of ways the church and the university can overlap together. I wrote a chapter on rethinking the idea of ordination and shared some of the insights we figured out from my time in Oregon. Although I haven’t had a chance to read the entire book yet, I suspect I’m the only contributing author that mentions Lady Gaga and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Here’s a teaser quote from my chapter:

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The Angry Chef

My threshold for risk in attempting a new book is pretty high. If any part of it catches my attention I’m in. Especially when I’m in a physical bookstore like Powell’s in Portland and they have books on sale. Oftentimes this leads me to books I will quickly forget about. But sometimes you find a gem.

Such was the scenario that recently caused me to buy a book called The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner (see: Amazon link). One of the negative side-effects of reading a lot is that it gets harder for books to impress you. I’ve often heard of the ideas in them before. But it also means I’m truly grateful when a book blows me away and exceeds my expectations. This was the case with reading Warner’s book.

Anthony Warner is a chef who likes food and science and takes issue with much of the way we think about food today. He especially takes issue with the diets that popularize the ways in which we eat or don’t eat food. Personally, I’ve spent much of this year changing the way I eat and work out and I want to understand both better. Warner’s book is a gift in this regard.

I think his argument can be succinctly summarized in this quote: “The more you learn about diet the less interesting the final message is. Eat everything in moderation and move around more. That may not be the most interesting hot take on eating, but dang if it’s not a good perspective to live by.

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Unfinished Symphonies

I turned 38 this week. That means the big 4-0 is now within striking distance. Rather than lament this, I actually like aging. I want to be a person that is perpetually learning and growing and becoming a better version of myself. This past year has offered me numerous opportunities to attempt this.

In his book Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr. made this poignant observation: “One of the most agonizing problems within our human experience is that few, if any, of us live to see our fondest hopes fulfilled. The hopes of our childhood and the promises of our mature years are unfinished symphonies.”

King famously had a dream of what could be—and was more successful than most in making it come to pass—yet so much of his life was an unfinished symphony. And so it goes.

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