What—and Why—to Read This Year
We hear a lot these days about binge-watching, but may I put in a word for binge-reading? C.S. Lewis, speaking for tea-lovers and bibliophiles the world over, once said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Lewis, of course, was also the acclaimed author of numerous Christian fantasy novels and a series of apologetics works that challenge and stimulate us even today. I wonder if there’s a connection? Those of us at the Colson Center certainly think so. You might even say we’ve staked our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor on the power of books to change people, who in turn change the world. My colleagues John Stonestreet, Warren Smith, and Stan Guthrie—not to mention yours truly—have invested tons of time writing books that help people grasp the Christian story and our roles in it. And of course our old friend Chuck Colson produced some modern Christian classics, including “Born Again” and “How Now Shall We Live?” But books do more than simply edify and equip us. According to the Serious Reading website, there are 30 reasons to read books. Here are five: They give knowledge; improve our brains; reduce our stress; improve our memory; help us develop critical thinking skills; and build our vocabulary. Okay, that was six, but who’s counting? So now that I’ve convinced you that you ought to read more books, the question naturally arises: What books should I read? I’m glad you asked. The two premier evangelical magazines, Christianity Today and WORLD, have different answers to that question, but it’s hard to go wrong either way. CT recently announced its 2018 Book Awards, which represent the books “most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and mission.” They are written by Christians and for Christians, under topics such as Apologetics/Evangelism, Biblical Studies, and Culture and the Arts. Under that last category, CT’s editors selected “Giving the Devil His Due,” by Jessica Hooten Wilson. The reviewer says, “In this age of psychiatric pharmacology, it’s been a while since the devil has made anybody do anything. Wilson aims to change that, not so much by bringing the devil back into the picture as by pointing out that he never actually left.” CT’s Book of the Year, meanwhile, is “Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life,” by Tish Harrison Warren. A reviewer says, “Walking her readers through a very ordinary day (brushing her teeth, making her bed, fighting with her husband), Warren highlights how all of life is liturgical. For a culture constantly in fear of missing out, Warren points to these sacred everyday rhythms as proof that we’re right in the middle of what is happening, if only we’ll take note.” WORLD takes a different tack. Its 2017 Books of the Year highlight volumes, published both by Christian and mainstream presses, that its books committee heartily recommends, so you’re liable to find just about anything. Here are a few. In the “Understanding America” category, the winner is Peter Cove’s “Poor No More,” which describes how people really get out of poverty. In the “Understanding the World” grouping, “Red Famine,” by Anne Applebaum, is the Book of the Year. It’s “a meticulous and blistering revelation on the Soviet [Union’s] use of famine in an attempt to destroy Ukraine 85 years ago.” In the “Accessible Theology” category, David Gibson’s “Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End” got top honor. For both WORLD’s and Christianity Today’s book lists, come to BreakPoint.org, and I’ll link you to them. As we like to say here at BreakPoint, “Readers are leaders.” So if you want to be a leader—in your home, at the office, in church, or in the larger society this year—you know what you need to do. Start the new year off right. Pour yourself a large cup of tea, grab a good book and start reading.