Reading Challenge Update: March-April

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 in March and April 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.

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  1. One Child by Mei Fong (A book about a country or city). Mei Fong writes about the short-term and long-term consequences of China’s horrific one-child policy.
  2. Habits of Grace by David Mathis (A self-improvement book). This is a powerful guide to the spiritual disciplines. It offers basic instructions to new believers while bringing fresh encouragement to those who have walked with the Lord for many years. It is a joy to commend it to you.
  3. Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker (A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with). Tucker’s book makes a case for egalitarianism but deals too little with the biblical text for it to be a strong case. It makes a case against something as well, but not against complementarianism, not as I hear it described, not as I see it lived out in my home and so many others’.
  4. A Great Blessing to Me by Grant Gordon (A book about church history). Gordon’s latest work looks at the little-known but important relationship between John Newton and George Whitefield.
  5. Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker (A memoir). Vanhoenacker is a commercial airline pilot who is also a skilled author. He writes about his love of flying and the simple joys of slipping the surly bonds of earth.
  6. A Peculiar Glory by John Piper (A book about the Bible). Piper’s first major work in a number of years explains why and how he has such deep-rooted confidence in the Bible. He sets out to answer this question: How are we to know that the Christian Scriptures are the word of God?
  7. Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith. Patrick Smith is another commercial airline pilot who enjoys writing. His book deals less with a passion for flying and more with some of the questions people ask and the fables they believe. Your enjoyment of this book will probably vary directly with the amount of time you spend in those little aluminum tubes hurtling through the sky.
  8. Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash (A book about leadership). Can you have genuine zeal for God without having it lead to burnout? Is there such a thing as a sustainable, non-complacent zeal? Ash believes there is and he speaks with a voice of experience having twice allowed his zeal to drive him to the very brink of a breakdown. He writes for all zealous followers of Jesus.
  9. Disrupted by Dan Lyons (A book about business). Lyons writes about his almost-too-bizarre-to-believe-it time at an Internet startup company. He survived with his sanity intact, but only barely. This one needs a language warning.
  10. Your Days Are Numbered by John Perritt (A book about productivity). Of all the gifts God gives to us, few are more precious and few are more fleeting than the gift of time. Your days are numbered and you are responsible to faithfully steward each one of them for the good of others and the glory of God. This book will teach and encourage you to make the most of the time God gives you.
  11. Unashamed by Lecrae Moore (A book about music). For a number of years Lecrae has been the leading Christian rapper. This book explains his humble and difficult origins and how he rose to become a star. Readers may be well served to know that at times the descriptions of his pre-conversion sin can be quite frank. Lecrae fans will be especially interested in reading his rationale for his recent decision to break a little from the Christian music genre.
  12. Black & Reformed by Anthony Carter (A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you). Black & Reformed is an excellent primer on one of the most pressing issues in American Evangelicalism today. It is equally at home in the hands of an African-American Christian investigating the claims of Reformed theology and in the hands of a white Christian seeking to better understand his African-American brothers and sisters.
  13. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (A book about science). Sleep and I do not get along very well, so I’m always eager to learn how we can be reconciled. Huffington’s book is an interesting mix of science, sociology, and New Age silliness. There are some good tips and lots of good information about the sheer importance of sleep, but there must also be better resources out there.
  14. Imagine Heaven by John Burke (A book about psychology). I really, really disliked this book, though perhaps somewhat unfairly. Burke purports to provide an honest examination of Near Death Experiences from a Christian perspective. Yet as he does this he draws little distinction between NDEs that describe elements that could be almost biblical and ones that are firmly planted in very different faiths. While NDEs may be worth considering, I found this a weak effort that does more to justify the heaven tourism genre than say anything substantial about the experiences.
  15. Jump by Michel Sauret (A Christian novel). I enjoyed this novel which aptly describes a Christian’s journey to faith, but do fear that the author was too free and descriptive in describing the character’s pre-Christian depravity. Though it is not unrealistic, it is not a novel I’d want my wife or teenaged son to read simply because of some of the descriptions of sin.
  16. Conscience by Andy Naselli & J.D. Crowley (A book written by an author with initials in their name). This is a wonderful introduction to the exceedingly important area of conscience. The authors give great care and attention to expositing the appropriate Scripture passages while drawing application suitable to all Christians.
  17. Brave Companions by David McCullough (A book by David McCullough). McCullough is such a skilled writer that even though this is one of his lesser works, it is still a tremendous joy to read.

You can see my previous updates for January and February.

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 Great Blessing to Me)
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (Conscience)
  • ☐ 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 (Unashamed)
  • ☒ A memoir (Skyfaring)
  • ☐ 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 (Habits of Grace)
  • ☒ A book by David McCullough (Brave Companions)
  • ☐ 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 (Black and Reformed)

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 (Your Days Are Numbered)
  • ☒ 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 (Jump)
  • ☒ A book about psychology (Imagine Heaven)
  • ☐ 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 Peculiar Glory)
  • ☒ A book about a country or city (One Child)
  • ☐ 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 (Zeal Without Burnout)
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☒ A book about science (The Sleep Revolution)
  • ☐ 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 (Disrupted)
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow

Books Without a Category

  • Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith