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June 13, 2007


Tom Smith

Great post JR, as a book lover myself I found your points very helpful.

Chris S

Thanks for the incite. I feel your pain about reading lists for school. I usually find myself making lists of 'school break reading' way before the semester gets out.


Tom -

You're on that list of people I trust with book recommendations so if you have any books you want to recommend here, I'd love it (and maybe others would, too).


JR, Good Post. Here’s a couple ideas from me:
“And the Band Played on” – Randy Shilts (Very provocative/powerful, chronicles the early days of AIDS)
“The Closing of the American Mind” – Bloom (early 1980s, predicts political correctness from a societal POV, explains 40-somethings)
“Colossus: the Rise and Fall of the American Empire” and other recent books by Niall Ferguson (A popular historian who challenges traditional views of history)
“1776” – Leadership (What the founding fathers went thru sticking it out in the Revolution)
Good Fiction:
“Les Miserables” (all 1200 pages!) – Victor Hugo (A critical view of the church in the 1700s from a non-believer, I was weeping at the end. Has my favorite Quote: “It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel.”)
“The Name of the Rose” and other titles – Umberto Eco, he’s an Italian Catholic intellectual and good writer - (a murder mystery that just happens to outline various facets of Christian thought in the 1300s)
“The Color Purple” – Alice Walker (A poor black girl writes letters to God, the movie nails the concept of Grace)


Aaron Peazzoni

Scott said I read this post and throw in my two cents, or else he was going to fire me. He has such wierd demands for his employees. (e.g., often, he'll only respond to "Dr. Hackman") Anyway, I liked your criteria. I'm not a fiction person myself, I especially hate Shakespeare. I was obsessed with the classics for a while though. And I love learning about different ideas that have nothing to do with each other. But my addiction would have to be philosophy and theology. (it is an addiction, not just a healthy interest.) Here are some favorites: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Derrida. For theology: Barth, Jean-Luc Marion (he wrote a book called "God without Being", it'll blow your mind), and John Caputo. If I had to recommend just one book that I'd want to you read in case we get stuck on a desert island together, it would be Caputo's "the prayers and tears of Jacques Derrida". It's the perfect blend of postmodern thought and christian theology. The one work of fiction I would recommend is Dostoyevsky's "The Brother's Karamazov". You may have read it if you like the classics, but there's more theology in that book than most seminary courses. Well, that's my two cents. Happy reading. thanks for the good conversation at lunch the other day too!



Sorry that Scott is so demanding of a boss. I'll make sure to confront him on that.

Your recomendations are good ones. I am at a bit of a crossroads here: "The Brothers Karamozov" is a classic (which I like to read) and contains theology (whiich, I also like to read) but it is fiction (which I don't read).

Help me out here...


J.R., great post. I agree with your mindset (and you know I love top 10 lists). I second the nominations of "Les Miserables", also my favorite musical which I've seen 7 times, 8 when it comes to Philly next May, and also "The Name of the Rose". I'll also throw "Count of Monte Cristo" in there. They are fiction, yet all classics.

Unfortunately similar to your required seminary reading I'm forced to read 8 simple steps-type books for my job, however Stephen Covey's "7 habits of highly effective people" transcends that category in my opinion. Life-changing for me.


Read fiction.

If you're going to develop creativity, if you're going to engage with God's narrative in the world - you must engage with story.

Read fiction.

Story displays the themes of nonfiction in real life.

Don't believe me? Read any story by Wendell Berry. His narratives display his thought and theology in deep ways that his essays and nonfiction cannot do justice.

Read fiction.


Interesting book-related life hacks



You've gotta read fiction!

Without meaning to sound harsh, I can hardly take seriously someone who says they love to read but they never read fiction. No Shakespeare? No Tolkien? Umberto Eco, Wendell Berry, Lewis Carroll, Bronte sisters? No Poetry for goodness sake!

Sorry, I get carried away. But it seems to me that someone who loves reading loves good writing. (And that's the main reason that I'm pretty much agreed on the no self-help books!)


I don't understand a "rule" against an entire genre of literature that all the movies you'd rather watch depend on for their very existence. This makes me very sad.

I've always found it interesting that non-fiction is a category defined by what it isn't (i.e. "non"). Story came first; theology is just our later attempt to talk about it.

For what it's worth, if you're looking to break your rule, I'd recommend The Brothers K by David James Duncan. Great writing, baseball - I think you might like it.

Matt Stone

Personally I find a quick squiz at the bibliography isn't a bad guide to the quality. Is the author quoting primary sources or relying on secondary sources? If the latter I put it down no matter who wrote it or recommended it.


Your discipline and dedication to reading are an inspiration. Your filtering process is very helpful and similar to my own. My only difference is that I include fiction in the classics section. I try to read a "Christian" classic and then a classic on the Great Books list. Recently the Count of Monte Cristo was a true blessing. I've also learned much from spending time with some of the oldest classic epics from Homer. Keep up the inspiring reading and reflections!


Pat Harvey

I really enjoyed the post and we have a lot in common. I can't read fiction either, the way I'm wired I'm always thinking that it is time that could be used reading theology, history, Scripture etc. My wife reads it all the time, so in light of two-becoming- one I guess I can argue I read it through her! We've read a lot of the same books and share some common interests regarding choosing books. (I wanted to recommended "The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles Stanford if you have never read it) Lord bless your ministry and summer, hope you got a good grade in Scot's class! Your ex-classmate-
Pat H.

Timothy Wright

Will you be my friend? I love the books you are reading and hope to read. I read books for a Christian org and pass them on to other people in the org. I will be back.



I agree with the others: read fiction!

I have a 1:1 ratio of fiction to non-fiction. The non-fiction usually hurts my head, so I use the fiction to put it back together. :)

BTW, I found you via Scot McKnight's blog.


Except for the no fiction rule, I love these ideas. I personally try to read 100 books a year. I hit it for 8 years in a row then all hell broke loose in my life and I missed it last year and this year looks bad. One of my greatest prohibitions is money. :(
Oh well, Have a good one.

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