The Reading Report, September, 2017

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. – Sir Francis Bacon “Of Studies”

I try to avoid the charge that “he writes more than he reads,” so I work on reading a little every day. Since life is busy, I read in the bathroom. And some days that is the only reading I have time for. But then that is an argument for reading in the bathroom, since we do that every day regardless of the schedule. But I digress.

From time-to-time, I will update my reading list. This gives me some good review and a good way to track my own reading. And who knows, one of my two readers might find a recommendation in what I say.

I read the way I eat: I call it “grazing.” I have about 5 books I am working through right now, here a little there a little. I will begin with a couple of books I recently finished, and then go on to the books I am reading now.

Recently Completed Books

John Adams by David McCullough

Every once in a while, you read a book that wows you from beginning to end, and this is one of those. It goes to my “all-time favorites” list, along with John Stott’s The Cross of Christ and Laura Hildenbrand’s Unbroken. I knew Adams was a great man, and I have heard plenty of people speak highly of this book, but I did not realize what a quality life he led. He was unusual even for his time. The book is well-written and a delight to read.

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg

My wife and I took a long drive across country recently, and I wanted to listen to an audiobook. So on this one I cheated. I found the book in the library and I was interested, and since I was reading Adams already, I thought this would fit. Burr was not as bad as history paints him, but he was not a good man. I probably knew this before, but his father, also named Aaron Burr, married one of Jonathan Edwards’ daughters. In a matter of less than 1 year when Burr was a young boy, his father died, his mother died, his grandmother (Edwards’ wife) died, and his grandfather (Jonathan Edwards) died. The Edwards were moving to Princeton to raise young Aaron. We cannot deny that these early tragedies shaped his life and outlook.

My Current Reading List

A Theological Interpretation of American History by C. Gregg Singer

Yes, I enjoy history, and this one has been in my stack of books to be read for a while. It is not, in my opinion, well-written. The author has a passion for his subject and seems to have read much on the subject, but he provides little documentation, rarely sites a source or even gives a quotation. So he is giving his opinion of the way America’s changing theology impacted America’s development as a nation. Nonetheless, the thesis is interesting. I wish someone would take what he has done and document things for us.

Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame

I am teaching Apologetics in our Christian school right now, so this is part of the curriculum. I have read parts of this book in the past, but this year I made it our class text, so I am reading the entire book. Yesterday, I found this nugget:

To defend the Bible is ultimately simply to present it as it is — to present its truth, beauty, and goodness, its application to present-day hearers, and, of course, its rationale. (p. 18)

Seasons of a Leader’s Life by Jeff Iorg

A pastor-friend gave me this book a couple of years ago. I have been reading it for a while now. Some helpful advice for sure.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

A short little powerhouse of writing advice. I highly recommend it. Of course, it is the magnum opus on style, and everyone who aspires to write should read it. Consider this little nugget from my reading this week:

The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place. (p. 71)

On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus

I wish I would have read this book about 15 years ago. Every preacher should read it and then read it again. Consider this little gem on “subject-preaching” (aka “topical” preaching)

Subject preaching is the orator’s method par excellence. It lends itself to finished discourse. But it has its dangers. The preacher easily becomes interested in finding subjects that are interesting and readily yield a good oration rather than such as have a sure Christian and scriptural basis or such as come close home to the needs of his people. He is tempted to think more of his ideas and his sermons than of “rightly dividing the word of truth” and leading men into the Kingdom of God. He is in danger also of preaching in too narrow a field of truth and human need, since of necessity he will be drawn to those subjects that interest him personally or with which he is already familiar. Unless, therefore, he is constantly widening his horizon by diligent study, he will soon exhaust his resources. Accordingly, at the very beginning, the student should be warned against too exclusive use of this type of sermon. (pp. 136-7)

Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student by James Nance

You guessed it: another textbook. This is a new one this year for my Rhetoric class, and I have appreciated the opportunity to grow in my understanding of Rhetoric this year. We just finished reading “Phaedrus,” and I will leave you with this quote from Socrates:

And this skill he will not attain without a great deal of trouble, which a good man ought to undergo, not for the sake of speaking and acting before men, but in order that he may be able to say what is acceptable to God and always to act acceptably to Him as far as in him lies; for there is a saying of wiser men than ourselves, that a man of sense should not try to please his fellow servants (at least this should not be his first object) but his good and noble masters… (from p. 39)