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Pastor Dan’s Reading List

This page is dedicated to my favorite hobby – reading. Often, people in my congregation ask for information about specific books that I make reference to in my sermons. So, If you like to read, or if you just want to see what the local Baptist minister is reading these days, this page is for you.

I’ve offered a very brief note with each pick that might, or might not say anything about the reason that particular book made my list. The list is updated about every 6 months or so.

Currently Reading:

A few selections that I have been reading over the past year (2015):

On Being Certain: Believing you are Right Even when you are Wrong. By Robert A. Burton M.D.
This is an interesting study in how our brain teaches us to “feel” certain about things – even when they are not factual.  It’s a good read for those of us who work in and teach in the area of theology and truth. As it reminds us that we often would rather be “right” than “correct.”

Twenty Ads that shook the World, by James B. Twitchell
This is a fun book about the most powerful ad campaigns ever devised by the human mind, and why they work so well.  This is a great read for those who like to think critically about the mass media and the market place, and a must read for all of you who think diamonds have any real value .

The Middle Ages, by Johannes Fried.
I am working on some ideas for some sermon series and find Europian history fascinating in light of its inseparable connection with church history and theology.  I good read for those who love history.

The Face of God, by Roger Scruton
This is a fantastic read! I loved every page.  Scruton is a British philosopher who writes from the point of view of a deist.  In this book he presents “the face” of man, God, and the earth, as the place that we find the divine.  The book is brilliant, and I used some of his ideas for my sermon series on sin.

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
If you thought you knew what it meant to be a Christian, read this book, Bonheoffer challenges us all!

The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer.
This is a small but powerful book about seeking after God.The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A. Kempis.
This book was written hundreds of years ago, but has much to say to us today if we intend to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Regarding the Bible, I am currently studying Matthew and Nehemiah.

Fiction-wise, I’m reading David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas.I recently finished No Country for Old Men and The Roadboth by Cormac McCarthy. For fun I picked up The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt


2010 – 11 Reading List:

I read several novels this year, mostly classics, a little Shakespeare, a little Bonhoeffer, and a few short stories.

The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas, Penguin Classics, 1996, (first published in 1844).

Providence, thy name is Edmond Dantes! :-).  It’s a great read, it’s 1200 pages – don’t read the abridged version!

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck, Penguin Books, 2002 (first published in 1939).
Chapter 14, which starts – “The western land, nervous under the beginning change,” is truly a brilliant piece of literature.

Re-read my favorite theologian – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s  Life Together.

The beauty and wit of Shakespeare helps me pass the winter months so this year I read:
King LearOthello, and The Tempest.

Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard
Isak Dinesen (written under this pseudonym, the author’s real name is Karen Blixen)
Vintage Books, 1993 (first published in 1958).

A delightful book of short stories which includes “Babette’s Feast,” one of my favorite short stories and a wonderful sermon illustration on grace.


What I was reading in 2009:

This year has been a mix of philosophy, fiction, poetry and some rereads of my favorite books on spirituality.  Strange mix this year, but that’s what life was like :-).

Leviathan,
Thomas Hobbes.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.

Leviathan is not what you would call recommended reading.  It’s one of the earliest works of Modern Western Philosophy (written in 1651). I’ve been reading it to better understand the relationship between faith, society, and western politics.

Evil and the Justice of God
N.T. Wright.  Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press. 2006.Read this one to prepare for a preaching series on Justice.

The Stillborn God, Religion, Politics, and the Modern West Mark Lilla.  New York: Random House, 2006.Also a book about religion and politics, and how culture impacts our understanding of God.

Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and other Animals. John Gray.  London: Granta Books, 2003.John Gray is an atheist philosopher who is critical of religion and Christianity.  I like reading those who disagree with me – it keeps me sharp.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare.  New York: Washington Square Press, 1992

Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare.  New York: Washington Square Press, 1992
Because everyone needs a good tragedy to cheer them up.  Besides, Hamlet reminds us that we are nothing more than “worm food,” and Julius Caesar reminds us that fame and success are fleeting – kind of like reading Job, but Shakespeare makes it funny!

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison. New York: Vintage Books, 1947.
Considered a modern American classic Novel, Ellison explores the racial and social issues of the US during the early part of last century.

Catch – 22, Joseph Heller. new York: Simon and Schuster, 1955.
Also considered an American classic, Heller’s Novel full of dark humor explores the insanity of war, and the bizarre aspects of human nature that perpetuate it.

Also reading this year:

Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard (listed below), and Having by Willian Schweiker and Charles Mathewes, a collection of writings on Christians and wealth.


General Book List:

Christian Spirituality:
Many of these books make it into my sermon material. They have helped me personally and I find they offer a great deal of sound advice for the 21 century Christian.

Life Together
Dietrich Bonhoeffer. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. 1954.
Simply the best book about what it means to be a church written by a man who paid the ultimate price for his faith.

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
Dallas Willard. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. 1991.
This book is great for those who often times, “don’t know how to pray,” or “don’t know what they should study in their Bible.” Willard does a great job of presenting Christianity as a lifestyle not just a one time decision

The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life
Tony Jones. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2005
This is a great little book for those of us who are interested in a well rounded Christian spirituality. Jones, offers his reader many wonderful ways to connect with God.

Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home
Richard J. Foster. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. 1992.
A great book on prayer from one of the most thoughtful Christian writers of our time.

The Jesus I Never Knew
Philip Yancey. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1995.
Probably Yancey’s best book, read in conjunction with What’s So Amazing About Grace, this book is excellent for the new Christian, or the person who vaguely remembers something her Sunday School teacher once said about a guy named Jesus.

What’s So Amazing About Grace
Philip Yancey. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1997.
I’ve used this book with leaders in our church to help them understand what “unconditional love” is really all about. A great read.

Mistakes Were Made (But not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.
Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Orlando: Harcourt Inc. 2007
OK, this book is not a Christian book, and it’s not exactly a book on spirituality. It’s written by two sociologists from the States, who do an excellent job of explaining why people don’t stop doing stupid things. The book is about how we deceive ourselves and so when I read it as a Christian, it reminds me of just how broken we really are. If you’re the kind of person who likes to make excuses for your behaviour – read this book.

Last but not least – The Bible
Of which my favorite books are; Genesis, Ruth, Isaiah, Amos, Luke, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, James, and Revelation.


Culture

As a pastor I’m very interested in all things cultural, I’m particularly interested in authors that offer a thoughtful evaluation of pop culture and the media. With this, however, I enjoy a good dose of political science, sociology and history. The following is a short list of authors I think make a great case for their ideas.

Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Neil Postman. New York: Penguin Books. 1985.
If you own a TV you need to read this book. It will help you understand why you have probably already started to skim this list and wonder why the pastor is so long winded.

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole.
Benjamin Barber. New York: W.W Norton and Company. 2007.
Excellent new book on the pervasive nature of the markets and their effect on the collective mindset of North Americans. Barber, offers great insight into the consequences of our many “private” decisions.

Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College, Inc., and Museumworld.
James B. Twitchell. Toronto: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks. 2004.
Good read. Somewhat like Naomi Kline’s No Logo.

Justice In The Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live
Will and Lisa Samson. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. 2007.
A good book for Christians who are tired of sitting in church listening to the preacher and attending pot-luck dinners. The Samson’s get you excited about getting out and doing something good.

Mediated: How the Media Shapes your World and the Way You Live in it.
Thomas de Zengotita,. York: Bloomsbury, 2005.
De Zengotita, explains once and for all why the Brit’s thought it necessary to leave 5 billion flowers at the gate for British Princess Diana. Great commentary on the media culture of our day.

Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity.
Hal Niedzviecki. Toronto: Penguin Books, 2004
Ever wondered why they have “professional eating contests”? Because they’re special and so are you. Niedzvieki explores the lighter side of narcissism in this fun look about how our culture reminds us, “Its all about you!”

Filtering The News: Essays on Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model.
Klaehn, Jeffery. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2005.
Great book with lots of Canadian content. Focuses on deception in the media.


Fiction

OK, I admit it, I’m addicted to the classics. I find it hard to enjoy the read if the author didn’t die before the invention of the automobile. That said, I have found a few really good books written in the past few decades. To make it easy for those of you who have no interest in 17th century Spain or 19th century Russia, I’ll list these books in chronological order starting from the present.  No need to comment. They’re all good.

Atonement, Ian McEwan.

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown.
OK, this one deserves a comment.  I’m not one to ignore a hot-button issue, so when I heard all the fuss about this book, I read it.  The book was fun, not the least bit historically accurate, but fun.  And am I the only person who sees the irony in an American writer, not only promoting the idea that Jesus got married and had kids, but that those kids are French? There now, I spoiled the ending – you don’t have to read it after all.

Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Orlando: Harcourt Books. 2001

No Great Mischief, Alistair Macleod. New York: Vintage Books. 1999.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole. New York: Grove Press. 1980.

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad.


Classic and Timeless:

These books have more to say about life than any sermon I could ever preach.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville.
Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes.