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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge February Update

Late last year I announced the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine), I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I completed so far in February and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson (A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended). This may well go down as one of the best books of 2016 and perhaps as one of Sinclair Ferguson’s all-time bests. Read my review, then buy it.
  2. The Lovers by Rod Nordland (A book about relationships or friendship). This book claimed to tell a Romeo and Juliet story from modern-day Afghanistan. Well, that was a significant overstatement. The story had its moments, but only barely managed to hold my attention.
  3. Tying the Knot by Rob Green (A book about marriage). When it comes to brief and helpful books meant to prepare a couple for marriage, you may want to take a good look at Tying the Knot. You can read my review here.
  4. Floodpath by Jon Wilkman (A book about a hobby (since for many years studying the disaster was the author’s hobby)). Floodpath tells the mostly forgotten tale of the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928, a life-long subject of study for Wilkman. The book tells the story competently, but Wilkman certainly is not David McCullough telling the story of the Johnstown flood.
  5. Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach (A book about homosexuality). I enjoyed Messy Grace both for the autobiographical story Kaltenbach tells and for the theology he teaches, dealing as he does with one of the most pressing issues of our day. I reviewed it here.
  6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (A book about suffering). This posthumously released memoir is a beautifully-written, haunting book that shot straight to the top of the bestsellers lists. Did Kalanithi become a believer at the end of his life? He may have. I sure hope he did…
  7. William Carey: Obliged to Go by Janet & Geoff Benge (A book by or about a missionary). Considering the impact of William Carey, I was surprised to find how few biographies there are that tell his story. This one is not exhaustive but is at least a good place to begin.
  8. Moving Mountains by John Eldredge (A book about prayer). I cannot and do not recommend this book on prayer for reasons I outline in my review.
  9. God and Politics by Mark Dever (A book of 100 pages or less). This is a very short book that obviously began as a sermon or speech at Dever’s church. That makes it personable and pastoral, but also sermonic in its form. It is useful for what it is, but did not make a great transition from one medium to the other.
  10. The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire (A graphic novel). I know nothing about graphic novels but had friends recommend this to me. I enjoyed the small-town Ontario setting; it seemed very natural. The story itself is sad and moving but very well done. Do note that the novel contains a fair bit of swearing and that one sub-story involves non-graphic sexuality.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☐ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☐ A book for children
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (William Carey)
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☐ A book about church history
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
  • ☐ A book written by an author with initials in their name
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☒ A book with 100 pages or less (God and Politics)
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☐ A book about money or finance
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☐ A book about music
  • ☐ A memoir
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☐ A self-improvement book
  • ☐ A book by David McCullough
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☒ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended (The Whole Christ)
  • ☐ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☐ A book published by The Banner of Truth
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☐ A book about productivity
  • ☒ A book about or relationships or friendship (The Lovers)
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book with magic
  • ☒ A book about prayer (Moving Mountains)
  • ☒ A book about marriage (Tying the Knot)
  • ☒ A book about a hobby (Floodpath)
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☒ A book about suffering (When Breath Becomes Air)
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☒ A book about homosexuality (Messy Grace)
  • ☐ A Christian novel
  • ☐ A book about psychology
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☐ A book about the Bible
  • ☐ A book about a country or city
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☐ A book about leadership
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☐ A book about science
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☐ A book about the church
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☐ A book about business
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow


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