As one year ends and another is about to begin it is a time that naturally lends itself to looking back…reflecting on the past. Usually that reflection involves looking back at the previous year, and I could certainly go on for quite some time in reflecting on the past twelve months because it has been a 12 months unlike any other 12 month period in my life. And I just may do that over the next few days. Today, though, I want to reflect back over the past five years, because the end of 2011 marks the end of five years since I decided to start keeping a record of the books I read.
I have enjoyed reading for as long as I can remember, and I have always read a lot. In January 2007, though, I decided to start recording the titles of each book I read and the date on which I finished the book. I think partly it was out of curiosity. Partly it was a challenge to myself–I wanted to see how many books I read, since I really had no idea, and I arbitrarily picked a goal of 50 books for the year. It may have had something to do with the fact that I turned 30 in 2007, too, though I cannot now think of any specific correlation between turning 30 and wanting to record my reading habits. Whatever the reason(s), I did begin such a record, and I have been keeping track ever since. And now, five years into it, it seems like a good time to look back at what I have read…to see what it tells me about me, if nothing else.
First of all, I did meet my goal of 50 books in 2007. Exceeded it, in fact. And I have met or exceeded that goal in each of the five years, reading a total of 311 books over that span. (Not counting all the books I have read to my children during that time!) The smallest figure over those five years was 50, in 2008…and I finished the 50th book on December 31! The largest number was 78 (this year). This may impress some of you, especially if you don’t read much. To average more than one completed book per week over five years probably seems remarkable. To others, it may seem but a modest accomplishment, as you may read far more than that. It seemed rather insignificant when I read in George W. Bush’s book Decision Points (finished that one in January 2011) that he read more than 100 books per year. After all, I’d like to think I have more time to read than the President of the United States does!
It has been said that you can identify a person’s priorities by looking at two things: their checkbook and their calendar. I agree. I would also suggest, however, that you can learn a lot about someone by looking at the books they read. So, I’m about to do some self-examination…and I guess you get to look on while I do.
Let’s start with 2007. I was still the Executive Director of a children’s home then, and that is reflected somewhat by my reading for the year in books like David Popenoe’s Life Without Father, and Lawrence Diller’s The Last Normal Child, John Townsend’s Boundaries with Teens, and Koren Zailckas’s Smashed. Popenoe leaves the reader with no doubt that children are adversely impacted by a life without a father, despite the argument many have tried to make to the contrary. Diller talks about the dangerous overuse of prescription drugs on children in America in a book of essays that continue where his previous book, Running on Ritalin, left off. Townsend, of the well-known pair of John Townsend and Henry Cloud, takes a look at the application of the “Boundaries” philosophy for which the pair is so well known as it applies to teenagers. And Zailckas provides a disturbingly graphic and simultaneously heart wrenching account of being a teenage alcoholic…and her parents never having a clue.
2007 also includes a good number of books on personal spiritual growth and Christian living, including Henry & David Blackaby’s Called to Be God’s Leader, Max Lucado’s Facing Your Giants, John MacArthur’s Lord, Teach Me to Pray, Adrian Rogers’ The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority, David Jeremiah’s Captured by Grace, John Ortberg’s When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, Chip Ingram’s God As He Longs for You to See Him, Mark Buchanan’s Your God is Too Safe and James MacDonald’s Lord Change My Attitude. I think most folks would benefit from reading any of these books, but if you have to pick just one, MacDonald’s book is convicting, relevant, and applicable to any person, anywhere, in any stage of life. I strongly recommend it.
My interest in politics and baseball is also reflected in 2007’s reading. Sean Hannity’s Deliver Us From Evil, Newt Gingrich’s To Renew America, J.C. Watts’ What Color is a Conservative, Major Garrett and Tim Penny’s The Fifteen Biggest Lies in Politics, David Frum’s Dead Right, Tommy Thompson’s Power to the People, and Katherine Harris’s Center of the Storm are all there. I don’t recollect any of these being bad books, but Hannity’s is what you would expect from a right wing radio/TV host. If you like Hannity, Limbaugh, Colter, etc. you’ll enjoy it. If not, don’t bother. Gingrich’s book should be read by anyone considering voting for him in the current election. Watts’ book was very well written, and Thompson’s provides a nice overview of his tenure as governor of Wisconsin. Garrett and Penny have a nice and relevant book, but it was not as good as their first book, Common Cents. For baseball, Joe Morgan’s Long Balls, No Strikes is a good book for any baseball fan. Cal Ripken, Jr.’s Get in the Game is an application of principles he has learned to the game of life, and Ricky Henderson’s Off Base is what you would expect from a very talented, but also very arrogant, baseball star.
There was a smattering of fiction in 2007, as in later years, both contemporary and “classic.” Michael Crichton’s State of Fear was a very interesting read, and would undoubtedly tick off any die hard environmentalists or climate change supporters, too. I read Beowulf, and didn’t like it. I know many do, and I am sure it has literary value, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is much more my style, and I enjoyed the first volume of Holmes and Watson very much. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is also excellent, and absolutely should be on any list of best books.
Other nonfiction… John Grisham’s one and, thus far, only non-fiction contribution, Innocent Man, is well written and an incredible story. David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach is a good and even interesting book…but I still can’t stand Bill Belichick! Many Ways to Say I Love You is a nice compilation of some of the songs and thoughts of Fred Rogers. Mrs. J.H. Worchester’s brief biography, David Livingstone and Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor’s The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor are both good books about those incredible men. John Gray’s Custer’s Last Campaign is a thorough examination of it’s title subject. A good book for those interested in Custer or The Battle of the Little Bighorn, but it would likely exhaust or put to sleep those who are at best mildly interested. Robert Remini’s The Life of Andrew Jackson, though, is a relatively easy read and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about the life of our seventh president.
Well…when I started this I actually intended to look back over the last five years in one entry, but it seems that would be a bit much. Just a brief overview of 2007 has resulted in one of my longest entries yet, and I did not even mention twenty-one of the books I read that year. I’ll knock that down to twenty though by stating that Phil Vischer’s Me, Myself and Bob is a fantastic book. I am not a huge fan of VeggieTales, but this book is an excellent look at the cost of pursuing a dream, the cost of turning too much of your dream over to others once success is achieved, and, ultimately, the cost of seeing that dream ended when your dream and God’s plan are no longer in sync. I recommend it highly to anyone.
Anyway, I guess I’ll have to reflect on 2008-2011 over the next few days…so stay tuned.