I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I avoid making them because I know I’m going to break them. This season, however, something caught my eye on social media that I could not resist: the “2016 Reading Challenge.”
I do not know its source, but it demands that participants read a dozen books: one published this year, one you can finish in a day, one you’ve been meaning to read, one recommended by a librarian, one chosen for you by a partner or BFF, one published before you were born, one banned at some point in time, one you previously abandoned, one that you should’ve read in school, one owned but never read, one that is intimidating, and one you’ve already read.
As a bibliophile, I knew that I had to take on this challenge, if not for the joy of it, then for the mere excuse to read some books I previously thought a waste of time.
Granted, we know as Christians that the Bible should be our first priority, but books can inspire deeper faith, challenge the mind, and bear testimony to the blessings of life. It was Karl Barth who said we should have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, lest we be ignorant of the world in which we’re called to serve.
The first read is one “you’ve been meaning to read.” For me, its Jon Meacham’s Power and Destiny, a biography on George H. W. Bush, that I hope will enlighten me of the world in which I grew up and now live. As a political junkie, I anticipate that this book will inform of current political events surrounding the Middle East, the economy, government intelligence, and the Bush legacy.
One of my BFFs recommended Short Stories by Jesus, by Amy-Jill Levine. Levine, a New Testament scholar with a Jewish background, provides deeper insights into the parables of Jesus and corrects some often-misunderstood premises upon which current parable scholarship is based.
Levine’s assumption, according to an article for The Christian Century, is that our reading of the parables is born out of an anti-Semitic interpretative (Protestant) legacy in which Jesus advocated for those outside of Judaism, while ostracizing those who are Jewish.
Levine argues the opposite: Jesus’ parables do not ostracize but enlarge God’s blessings on Israel, as well as the rest of the world. The parables humiliate immoral archetypes in general, not Jews in particular, that fail to embody the values and principles inherit in Jesus’ understanding of God’s kingdom.
The book published before I was born is any one by Zane Grey. I don’t know if this is a Southern thing or not, but I’ve found many of Grey’s books in the libraries of my church members. I hear that they make for great reading and provided many an adventure for young people playing “cowboys” back in the day.
The book that intimidates me, and one I’m going to try and tackle by the end of the year, is Moby Dick. This is one of those books I’ve picked up and skimmed through, only to put it back on the shelf. All I know (aside from the fact that we have a little bit of Ahab in all of us) is that the pages of this book are many, and the words are small.
It can also double as a booster seat in my car or at the barber, or perhaps serve as a step-stool so people can actually see me when I preach from Trinity’s pulpit.
The book I’ve abandoned is Stormie O’Martian’s Power of a Praying Husband. I must admit, I’m not a pop culture Christian book fan, so when my wife recommended this long ago, I was hesitant.
I started reading it to keep her from asking me about it every week, as well as my realization that I don’t pray like I should anyhow. I will finish it this year, I promise.
As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you too would like to take the 2016 Reading Challenge. If so, let me know by email or letter. I’d like to hear about the books you plan on reading.