Reading Plan for the New Year

It’s not a secret that I have a book addiction. In many ways, to read is to live.

Last week I went to The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. Rows and rows of beautiful books.

Last week I went to The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. Rows and rows of beautiful books.

Yet in reflecting on 2013, I realize how very little I read.  I’m disappointed with my literary diet. Three factors converged to create a reading famine: 1) My eyes are getting old and frankly the physical act of reading is frustrating and painful. Some days, it’s just nearly impossible. Yes, I’ve resigned myself to reading glasses, but even so, there are just only so many roads around the reality of getting old and all of them are bumpy. 2) My book budget was slashed by our need to keep up with the kids’ college costs and my local library is disappointing. 3) Here’s the real reason–I didn’t have a plan. I failed to prioritize what I would read and so I ended up spending too much time feasting on blogs, which let’s face it–blogs are good for a snack, but aren’t a good source of deep and sustaining nutrition.

This year is going to be different. I have lined up my books and I’m ready to go. My plan is conservative–I’m leaving room for interruptions and detours, because that’s just life. Plus, I will no doubt get distracted by the latest and greatest (and free-est on Kindle), so I wanted to leave room for spontaneity.

Before I share my list with you, I need to add an explanation by way of warning. My list will appear random; it isn’t. I try to read across a wide plane of genres, viewpoints, and interests. I like to read old things so I don’t forget lessons learned and always include books that will challenge me to try something new, even if it is just a recipe or exercise. Sometimes I intentionally read something I know I will disagree with; other times I know my thinking in an area is shallow and limited, and it needs stretching. I like my books to make me a better thinker, but even more so, a better, more complete, more compassionate person.

Here’s the list for your review…and an invitation to some good reading for your new year. 

1. The Heart of Christ, by Thomas Goodwin. Always, always, always have a book open that is written by one of the Puritan theologians who have gone before us. Their perspective keeps us awake to how progress (especially theological “progress” has made us comfortable and shallow).

2. Christian Love, by Hugh Binning. Another Puritan gem.

3. Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward. This book was begun last year with a small group of friends who thought they might enjoy reading it, but well…it was a flop. So I shelved it until I realized I loved it and by it was making some wonderful discoveries about the genius of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Even if I must go alone, I shall continue on.

4. Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, by Brett McCracken. Cultural engagement is an important aspect of discipleship and maybe it’s my reading of the Puritans, but I struggle with the in but not of aspects of daily life. Is there such a thing as too much freedom, especially when it comes to matters of food, drink, and entertainment? If Christ is to be Lord of all then I think this question needs to be one of continued wrestling.

5. Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality of Illusion, by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. For the reason stated above, the task of the church is important to me.

6. After our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity, by Miroslav Volf. The reason why #4 and #5 are important.

7. Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, by Andy Crouch. The idea of power and how we as Christians steward ourselves and others in the world has been a hot button issue for me now for several years. Marva Dawn first challenged me to developed a theology of weakness and I’m looking forward to how Crouch will speak into this topic.

8. Living by the Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, by Thomas Nettles. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to read this biography of a man I love more than I thought possible of someone I’ve never personally met. (While on the topic of biographies, I am also hoping to get to Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis–A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet.)

9. Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir, Stanley Haerwas. I love memoirs. I love Hauerwas. {I started this book last year and got distracted. When I saw it on my shelf, I was saddened by my neglect.}

10. Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy, by Jerry L. Walls. Philosophy is my nemesis, yet I’ve discovered it is a necessary discipline to keep sharpened if I am to think and articulate well in theological circles. Because of this, I trudge through books written by skilled philosophers to help push me up the {painful} learning curve.

11. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg. You know, because I’m a woman and I’m inspired by other women who make it in hard places and do it with grace…and don’t lose their minds…and I only wish it wasn’t such an extraordinary event that we had to write books about it.

12. Hildegard of Bingen: A Visionary Life by Sabina  Flanagan. Church history + what I said in #11.

13. Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Earle Stegner. A book list without fiction is incomplete. I’ve heard such good things about this book. I hope it lives up to its accolades because for the last few years the fiction genre has let me down.

14. The First Circle, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. One of my all-time favorite authors. If you haven’t read any of his works…what!?! Why not? Please remedy this in 2014. I was taught that when a book introduces you to a great mind you should read everything that author has written; they will teach you not only how to write well but the art of thinking well. If you are looking for an author like this, Solzhenitsyn is your man.

15. Notes on Cooking, by Lauren Bran Costello and Russell Reich. I love Notes books and I can use all the help in the kitchen I can find.

Of course, the year will include many days in which I will pull off the shelf A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Amy Carmichael and Arthur Pink because I will need regular visits with the friends who understand me best.

Did I miss a must-read on my list? What will you be reading?

2 thoughts on “Reading Plan for the New Year

    • Mike, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. New year, new books. Happy New Year to you–May you continue to grow in God’s grace and be a source of encouragement to others!

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