After a weekend like this past one, with continued social unrest and all forms of media being used and abused in overdrive, you may be feeling like you need a break from the internet- some respite from the noise. And that is okay. To want to unplug and create space for yourself to process, to think, to pray, to listen, to just breathe, is not only okay, but good and healthy.
I’ve wanted share some of my favorite reads from this summer and I think that now is the perfect time. Remember books? Those wonderful objects that teach and inspire and challenge without the use of a comment thread and (hopefully) done so with decent grammar. Anyone can engage in solitary, focused reading time and walk away relaxed (or fall asleep peacefully, as I do) because of the simple format of a book. Just ink on paper. No ads screaming at you, no glowing screen, no trolls. Our brains are happier when we slow the information stimulation down and just enjoy a good book. So here are a few to get you started:
1. Strange Days, Life in the Spirit in a Time of Upheaval (Mark Sayers, 2017.)
This is the first book I’ve picked up by Australian pastor Mark Sayers and I’m finding it a timely read. Sayers has an interest in interpreting post-modern history and current culture clues through the eyes of scripture and by the movement of the Spirit. At times his writing felt academic (in the best kind of way, well-researched and inquisitive) and at others it was more like a poetic prayer, prophetically calling for a deeper understanding of our times for Jesus-followers. He addresses everything from Brexit to Trump to racial tensions and the warring media, all with the heart of a shepherd. My highlighter was kept busy while reading this one!
2. Strengths Based Leadership (Tom Rath & Barry Conchie, 2009.)
When I took Gallup’s StrengthsFinder test last year, it was like jumping head first down the self-evaluation rabbit hole, but one that was made strong with tons of statistical data (hmmm…data!) The result of my test (my top 5 strengths) has given me plenty to think and write about, as I have more clarity now about who God made me to be (and even possibly the work I am called to do!) There are many supporting resources (free and for purchase) created by Gallup’s associates to help the test-taker unpack their personal results and apply it to real life, with Strengths Based Leadership being one of them. I am using this book currently to sketch up profiles of my co-workers and to map out our team dynamics. If you pay attention to public polls or find the Meyers-Briggs test interesting, then you’ll love this book! I continue to reference it all the time (see: the various post-it tabs in the photo; my nerdy side emerging.)
3. At Home in the World (Tsh Oxenreider, 2017.)
I don’t read much fiction, so when I want something fun and light, I tend to reach for memoir-styled stories. This was such a great book! It is the story of the Oxenreider family (dad, mom, three kiddos) and their journey around the world in about a year. It was colorful and interesting, heart-warming (without being cheesy or overly emotional), exciting at times, and ultimately empowering because Tsh has a way of convincing you that of course you could pack up your babies and live out of a backpack for several months for the sheer adventure of it all! I especially loved her description of the little Thai cafe that became their regular spot and will definitely email her requesting the address, should we find ourselves heading that way.
4. Grace, A Memoir (Grace Coddington, 2012.)
Another memoir, this one tells the story of Vogue’s infamous Creative Director at large, Grace Coddington. I’ve always loved a coming-of-age story, especially one with a work/career-centered theme, and Grace’s is made that much more interesting because she came up in the fashion industry during the mid-twentieth century in both England and America. I am only about a third of the way in to her story, but I’m enjoying it as a wind down read (with a cup of hot tea and a bite of chocolate) at the end of a busy day.
5. Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward (Nabeel Qureshi, 2016.)
My tastes are diverse if they’re anything, right? Let me just start by saying that I am so grateful for the teaching that has come out of Ravi Zacharias’ International Ministry (RZIM) and that absolutely includes Nabeel Qureshi’s writing. Nabeel has several books worth reading, but I thought I would include this short primer on the basics of who and what Jihad is… Nabeel grew up Muslim, having since converted to Christianity, and he teaches on the topic of “A Better Way Forward” with clarity and compassion. The book is almost a reference guide, including vocabulary lists and Q&A style formatting, although it is only meant to scratch the surface of understanding behind the acts of worldwide terror. If you need to learn the basics of Islam and more specifically, Jihad, and don’t want to sift through the mines of the internet, then this is a nice place to start.
6. Messiah (Immerse: The Reading Bible) (Tyndale, 2017.)
Lastly, I wanted to include this new take on reading the Bible. I was given a copy of Messiah, which I later found out to be Volume One in a series of six, at a conference earlier this year. It is not a new translation (it utilizes the New Living Translation) but rather a new experience of reading -a new formatting- that feels much more like reading a narrative story. The first 110 pages, for instance, are actually the books of Luke through Acts, arranged by chronological movement of the story as it follows Jesus’ life, with Matthew and Mark coming later. This version of the Bible is very enjoyable to read and has already illuminated some areas of scripture that I had previously glossed over. I haven’t downloaded the audio version yet, but I can imagine it to be worth it.
So there is my short list of six recommendations to get your head off the internet and into a book ASAP. And with fall just around the corner, it is the perfect time to grab a coffee and a friend and go find a real bookstore to get lost in. Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me! What are you reading?