Looking Back (part 4)

And now it is time to look back at 2010…

My reading included a variety, as usual. With 2010 being an election year I was–as I always am during election years–thinking a lot about politics, so my reading at the beginning of the year included a couple of books about politics and, specifically, campaigning: The Political Campaign Desk Reference by Michael McNamara and Campaign Bootcamp by Christine Pelosi, daughter of then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I found both very interesting reading, but I would not recommend them for anyone not considering running for office him- or herself or seriously interested in the cost (financial and otherwise) of running for office in the United States.

A variety of spiritual development and Christian living book populate my 2010 reading list, including Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, a classic on the subject; Being Christian by Stephen Arterburn and John Shore, a good book for new Christians especially; Crazy Love by Francis Chan; Fearless and Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado; Experiencing the Resurrection by Henry and Mel Blackaby; A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur; Kevin Lehman and Bill Pentak’s short book The Way of the Shepherd; How Should I Live in This World? by R.C. Sproul; Dual Citizens by Jason Stellman; and Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel. I also read Alex and Brett Harris’s book targeted at young people, Do Hard Things.

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen is a short but powerful book about what it means to be a leader in accordance with biblical principles, drawing on both Satan’s tempting of Jesus in the wilderness and Nouwen’s own experiences at L’Arche. C.J. Mahaney’s short book Humility: True Greatness is also powerful, and convicting. Joe Stowell’s Jesus Nation is an excellent book highlighting how believers’ lives should be impacted by, and evidently show, their relationship with Christ. John Ortberg’s The Me I Want to Be is perhaps the best book in this category that I read in 2010, though, and is probably the book that I have given to more people than any other book I have read in recent years. In his trademark style Ortberg articulates what living the Christian life should look like…and why it is harder than it “looks.” One friend to whom I gave the book commented later that it might have been more accurately titled “The Me I Should Want to Be.” It goes very well with the aforementioned Stowell book, too, and perhaps even better with another Stowell book I read in 2010, Why It’s Hard to Love Jesus. And Chip Ingram’s Holy Ambition is an excellent examination of what it means to seek and follow God’s plan for your life regardless of cost or other human obstacle.

There was a large number of fiction books again, including titles by James Patterson, David Baldacci and John Grisham, including his first offering in the genre of youth fiction. I also read Michael Crichton’s last book Pirate Latitudes, an interesting entry into what was at the time a very popular subject area, and one that, to me, is far more enjoyable than the various Disney movies that seem to have sparked the recent increase in books and movies around that time period. I decided to branch out and read several new or new-to-me authors in the field of contemporary fiction. Mark Mills’ The Information Officer, a fictional look at a very specific niche of World War II, with a British officer attempting to influence the news on Malta, was an interesting read. Another new author for me was Elizabeth Lowell, and her Blue Smoke and Murder weaves a tale that includes the art world and ruthless intrigue, putting together (of course) a male and female team that eventually overcomes all of the obstacles to their success. In some ways it reminded me of some of Baldacci’s work. Eric Van Lustbader’s First Daughter is about an ATF agent who lost his own daughter, and must now lead the search for the kidnapped daughter of the President-elect, who was his own daughter’s best friend. Elizabeth George’s Careless in Red was my first exposure to her famed Inspector Linley. Joseph Finder’s Vanished is another in the sometimes-predictable field of individual agents overcoming insane odds to defeat vast conspiracies in the defense of a loved one (akin to the Jason Bourne movies). Jeffrey Archer’s And Thereby Hangs a Tale is a nice collection of short stories that I found very enjoyable. And my classic fiction reading for 2010 included Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s 1984 and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. The first two were interesting enough, but I highly recommend the third.

History selections included Thomas Fleming’s Washington’s Secret War, a very interesting look at how Washington dealt with behind-the-scenes efforts by some in the Army to remove him as commander of the Continental forces. Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower is a fantastic look at the settling of the colony at Plymouth Rock, the relationship between the Pilgrims and Strangers and the Native Americans in the area in the years shortly after the Europeans’ arrival, but also the relationship between the groups for decades after. James Horn’s A Kingdom Strange is a look at the “Lost Colony” that Sir Walter Raleigh planted on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; Steven Waldman’s Founding Faith is a thorough and careful examination of the religious convictions of the Founding Fathers; and Harlow Giles Unger’s Lion of Liberty is a well done biography of Patrick Henry.

In the area of autobiographies, R. B. Mitchell’s book Castaway Kid is moving account of Mitchell’s years growing up in a children’s home, occasionally visited by his mother, who was not emotionally able to care for him; secretly rejected by his father’s family, though they allowed some visits; an never quite able to understand why he could not live permanently with his grandmother. In college Mitchell would accept Christ and meet his future bride; after graduation he became a very successful businessman. Still Standing is Carrie Prejean’s look at what it was like to be ridiculed for opposing same sex marriage in answering a question in the Miss USA pageant. No Apology is Mitt Romney’s look back at his life and his 2008 presidential bid, and mostly a defense of his positions on various issues. Spoken From the Heart is Laura Bush’s autobiography, a well-written and interesting book.

Dawn Jewell Herzog’s Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom is another book about global sex trafficking and the power of the Gospel, a hard-to-read but still-necessary book along the lines of those by Haugen and Batstone addressed in my reflections on 2009.

Other books included The Only Game in Town, Fay Vincent’s fascinating oral history of baseball stars from the 1930s and 1940s; Jason Turbow and Michael Duca’s The Baseball Codes, a fascinating look at some of the unwritten rules of Major League baseball; Mona Charen’s Do-Gooders, an examination of how many of the programs and policy initiatives of the political left may in fact hurt those they purportedly are designed to help; E.D. Hirsch, Jr’s The Schools We Need is a sharp reproach of the inferior level of education provided in public schools and the importance of cultural literacy; and Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic examines the “Disney Way,” the secrets of the incredibly strong culture among Disney employees and the high level of customer service and corporate pride at all Disney properties.

One more year to go…then I’ll get back to blogging about things other than my reading habits.

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