Looking Back (part 2)

Moving on to 2008… In July of 2008 I experienced an issue with my health that would put my mostly out of commission for several weeks, and resulted in me going for nearly a month without completing a book as I literally did very little of anything. (Thank goodness the first season of Matlock had just come out on DVD; I watched lots of Matlock during those weeks!) Still, I managed to finish the year having completed exactly 50 books.

There are, again, a number of books that reflect my work with young people, including Kevin Lehman’s Have a New Kid by Friday, and two that reflect my interest at the time in exploring the messages our culture sends to young people through media: Alissa Quart’s Branded and S. Lamb and L.M. Brown’s Packaging Girlhood.

A large number of the books I read in 2008 though were related to my study of what it means to be a Christian in the workplace–to reflect Christ in day to day activities at work regardless of position. This study ultimately led to the development of UNTO THE LORD: The Roles and Responsibilities of the Christian Worker. Thus far it is only a multi-session training curriculum that has received very positive reviews from those who have participated, but I hope it will someday be a book, too. But the books I read in my study included John Marchica’s The Accountable Organization, Bruce Katcher’s 30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers, R.T. Kendall’s Controlling the Tongue, John Trent’s The 2 Degree Difference, Chip Ingram’s Good to Great in God’s Eyes, Beth Moore’s When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, John Townsend’s Whose Pushing Your Buttons?, John Maxwell’s The 360° Leader, Dan Allender’s Leading With a Limp, Ken Sande’s The Peace Maker, Lou Priolo’s Pleasing People, and John Ortberg’s Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. There are valuable lessons and insights in each of these books and I would likely recommend any one of them at one time or another to different people and in different situations. If I had to select just one to recommend from this list, though, Allender’s book is a great exploration of what true leadership is…and isn’t, and that would be the standout of the bunch.

I also read Marcus Buckingham’s trilogy of books on identifying and implementing strengths in the workplace, First, Break All the Rules (with C. Coffman), Now, Discover Your Strengths (with D. Clifton) and Go Put Your Strengths to Work. All three were valuable, and include lessons applicable outside of the workplace, as well–to Christian ministry, for example, even volunteer ministry positions within the church.

Spiritual development and Christian living books in 2008 included Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s For Men Only (an excellent book for men wanting a better understanding of their wives in general and how a woman’s mind works differently than a man’s in particular), Surrender by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (a small but powerful book), The Holy Wild by Mark Buchanan (who has become a favorite contemporary Christian writer and an excellent expositor of thought-provoking reflections on applying Scripture), Desiring God by John Piper (if you are familiar with John Piper at all you have likely at least heard of this book; and if you want to understand the concept of “Christian hedonism” on which the majority of Piper’s ministry has been based this is a must-read), God is Good by Tony Beckett (another easy to read book with very relevant insights) and The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (in my mind, you cannot go wrong with anything written by Zacharias). I also read Buchanan’s Hidden in Plain Sight, a powerful examination of 2 Peter 2:1-9 in which Buchanan identifies and explores the virtues that should be evident in the Christian life. I end with this book for this section because it is the one I would recommend, if I had to pick just one, from the books mentioned in this paragraph.

There was some fiction in 2008, too, including the classic children’s favorite Stuart Little by E.B. White, the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, and Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, the 1921 Pulitzer Prize winner for Literature. More contemporary fiction offerings included David Baldacci’s The Camel Club, the introduction to his recurring set of characters by the same name, and John Grisham’s The Appeal. In fact, I read a good bit of both Baldacci and Grisham in 2008, with Baldacci’s Stone Cold and The Whole Truth and Grisham’s Bleachers and Playing for Pizza rounding out the list. Baldacci’s books would be great for anyone who enjoys conspiracy theories, in particular. Bleachers is Grisham’s short book about adult males returning to their hometown after the death of their high school football coach, and Playing for Pizza is a look at an NFL quarterback whose career is in the dumps who decides to head for Italy to play in a new Italian football league. Were this book made into a movie, and the pre-marital sexual activity left out (though it is not portrayed graphically in the book) it would be an almost-perfect combination of sports movie and chick-flick. I also read Randy Alcorn’s Safely Home. While this is a work of fiction, it is a powerful book examining the persecution of Christians in China.

As for 2008’s non-fiction selections, I read James Swanson’s Manhunt, an outstanding book on the weeks following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the escape route of John Wilkes Booth, and the ensuing hunt to find Booth and his accomplices. The book was particularly meaningful for me since I grew up in Southern Maryland right where many of the events take place, but I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in that era of American history. Angus Konstam’s Blackbeard is an admirable biography of that most-famous of American pirates for anyone interested in that sliver of history. Kenneth Walsh’s Feeding the Beast is a decent look at the way media, particularly in this age of 24/7 news, relates to politics, and Donald Cole’s Martin Van Buren and the American Political System is a good biography of the Little Magician from Kinderhook. Bernard Ruffin’s Fanny Crosby is an excellent biography of the prolific hymn writer, and Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength is a good book for anyone, whether football fan or not.

Tomorrow I’ll provide an overview of the 64 books I read in 2009….

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