Second to last day in 2018. That means lists. I am going to do a two-parter here. Part 1: the best book I read in 2018. Part 2: a few books you should read in 2019.
I love finding out what books people are reading. Novels, non-fiction, theology, cookbooks, books students read to get an economics degree – whatever. That’s why I hate Kindles! I can’t see what you are reading on a plane, or in a coffeeshop. Why do you keep me from such treasure?! Anyway, I digress. If you are anything like me you love suggestions and re-caps of what people read, so here is my Best Of list for 2018. They are a hodgepodge categorically – theology, psychology, business, historical fiction, cultural commentary, etc., No particular order.
The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company by Joseph A. Michelli. This book is all about how to run an organization based on the principles of serving othersat the highest level of quality. This is what the staff at Village Church and I want to shoot for every day. The book opens with a quote heard in the foyer of a Ritz by the President. An employee to a guest (or what they call one of their ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’): “Yes is the answer…what was the question again?”. I love that! A We Can Make it Happen attitude. I shared this with our staff. Just like Jesus we are here to serve people the best we can. We aren’t perfect as a staff yet, starting with me, but we are working on getting there!
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a wonderful story but writing for me sometimes trumps plot and few are better than McCarthy. It’s almost poetry from start to finish. One day I hope to be one percent the writer McCarthy is.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson. Peterson is a divisive figure because of his ideas which is all the more reason the book is worth reading. The book firmly plants responsibility on us as people for our lives versus environmental factors. There is a clear Petersonian (is that a word?) agenda at play in reaction to more leftist, postmodern anthropologies and epistemologies. As the most well known public academic in the world right now, and a clinical psychologist, he delves deeply into all kinds of things in this book from raising kids to how the human brain and behaviour are similar to those of lobsters. A good book to read so you can debate its ideas at parties.
Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. A great exploration of the need to recover the five solasof the Protestant Reformation, especially sola scriptura, and what that even meant to the Reformers and what it should mean for us. Also an exploration of some of the negative implications of the Reformation in this regard. It really is so theologically rich and firmly plants the Bible at the centre of Christian thought and practice, which is a much needed word today, as so many modern Christians re-think the authority of the teachings of the Bible in their lives.
Martin Luther by Eric Metaxes. So great to frame Luther in his historical-cultural context and see the man as a human being – a revolutionary, a scholar, and even a lover/husband, to his precious Katie, a very strong woman who was a nun her whole life and yet fled the convent and married Martin, had a family (mothered 6, two children of whom died), ran a small business herself and was a force, which she had to be as people from all over satirized and vilified her often.The Luthers, together, truly did change the world, as Metaxes says, in a thousand ways.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Green. This small business book is one of the best. Read it again for the umpteenth time to help us think through planting locations and keeping quality across the sites. His insights about Technicians, Entrepreneurs and Managers is priceless, as are his chapters on franchising and expansion.
Desiring the Kingdom (Cultural Liturgies): Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith. Smith is a brilliant theologian. His bread and butter is Augustinian thinking and applying it to the modern world and how we think and function. This one unpacks how we think, worldviews, and navigates life as followers of Jesus in the present cultural mood, especially in regard to our behaviours as liturgical rhythms of life.
Paul by N.T. Wright. Having read pretty much everything Wright has written on Jesus and Paul and first century Judaism it was great to see this biography. It is so great because it isn’t juts a play by play of Paul’s life, but has this rich theological background to it that informs Paul’s thinking, not just his movements in life. For fans of biographies, and the Apostle Paul, it’s amazing.
Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. If you like historical fiction and stories about World War II, this is a page turner – one of the best of the Killing Series. Following the fight of the Pacific Theatre versus the European one (read Killing Patton for that). It builds toward the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The descriptions are detailed and there are a number of great stats so the reader can understand the scale of devastation. It follows all the main players of the war and quickly moves between their actions. Almost reads like a screenplay.
George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. To be perfectly honest this may have been *my favourite read of 2018. Likely because I am a huge film fan and movies aren’t very good anymore. It follows George’s life from his childhood, through his college years, THX, and American Graffiti, but hits its stride as it tells the Star Wars story in detail from casting, to the terrible conditions of the shoot, and process behind A New Hope and the writing, producing, etc., of all the other Episodes Lucas oversaw (Ep. 1-6). A great read for any fan of film and especially Star Wars fans.
There were many other great reads in 2018, but let’s be honest, you are bored, because this is a blog and you likely gave up reading a few mins ago.
I will suggest some great books for you to read in 2019 in Part 2!