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2016 Reading Challenge January 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 have completed so far in 2016 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 Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien). I had read The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers at a nice, slow pace last year and began the final part of the trilogy on January 1. I enjoyed every page.
  2. Black Flags by Joby Warrick (A book about a current issue). This was one of two books I read dealing with the rise, reality, and purpose of ISIS. Because it is fast-paced and reader-friendly, Black Flags is an excellent place to begin. You can read my review here.
  3. The ISIS Apocalypse by William McCants (A historical book). Where Black Flags is somewhat biographical and reader-friendly, The ISIS Apocalypse is more of a history book and, thus, a little bit more difficult to read. Still, it tells the same story of the rise of ISIS and is worth reading to understand this organization and its goals. You can read my review here.
  4. The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders (A book about theology). This is a brilliant book and one of my new favorites on the Trinity. You can read my full-length review here.
  5. What Is the Trinity? by R.C. Sproul (A book by your favorite author). This is a good, short, and thoroughly Sprouline treatment of the Trinity. I read it and a couple of other books on the Trinity as a warm-up for this year’s G3 Conference.
  6. Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester (A book about Christian living). This is one of two books by the same title. This one is plenty good, but probably just outside my top-3 or top-5 on the subject.
  7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize). I read this because it was awarded last year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is a very good novel but comes close to a concluding orgy of awfulness. A scene of rape mars the final chapters—the scene takes place in Germany at the close of the Second World War when Russian soldiers were pillaging and raping their way to Berlin, so it’s not like it was unrealistic. I just don’t know that it added anything to the book. Beyond that, it was a very enjoyable novel, but still not among my favorite Pulitzer Prize winners.
  8. The Forgotten Fear by Albert Martin (A book whose title comes from a Bible verse). This is a very helpful book on a neglected subject. You can read my review here.
  9. Dreamland by Sam Quinones (A book with a one-word title). This book received a fair bit of attention in the various round-ups of 2015’s best books. It is an interesting look at America’s opiate epidemic and the outsized role of one small Mexican county. It also draws negative attention to big pharma and its role in drug addiction.
  10. Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson (A book written by a first-time author). NFL standout Watson expands a Facebook post into a book-length treatment of race and racism. He writes from a distinctly Christian perspective and does a wonderful job of communicating the African-American perspective on race while challenging both African-Americans and whites to overcome their biases and to work toward lasting change. You can read my review here.
  11. Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson (A biography of a world leader). I wanted to love this biography but struggled with it a little. Still, Queen Victoria was a fascinating figure who reigned for a long, long time through a pivotal point in history. I appreciated Wilson’s treatments of her relationship with her husband and, later, with John Brown.

I am currently reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (it is so long!), The Lovers by Rod Nordland, and The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson; I am tracking it all through Goodreads.

I expect that I will be able to read 104 books, but that the difficulty will come in trying to fit those books into the categories. However, I suppose that will also be the fun part as well as the part that diversifies my reading.

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
  • ☒ 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
  • ☐ 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
  • ☒ 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
  • ☐ 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
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book with magic
  • ☐ A book about prayer
  • ☐ A book about marriage
  • ☐ A book about a hobby
  • ☐ 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
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☐ A book about homosexuality
  • ☐ 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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