I’ve read many commentaries that make claims about different genres in the Bible. “This is romance”, “this is whatever”. But I had the feeling that many of the people making such claims actually read very little outside of what they were studying. How can you recognize a genre if you have no experience with it?
I’ve heard about all sorts of readings lists and reading challenges out there. They seem to give a wide variety of categories to give the reader a taste of different genres, etc. I like the idea of a balanced approach. In college, I didn’t read anything besides my textbooks, even though I used to read all sorts of things all the time. I didn’t want Seminary to be the same way. It helps that I’m only studying part-time, and take Sundays off, so I can read whatever I want on Sundays.
I’ve also been inspired by Dr. Paul Magnus from Briercrest Seminary to do strategic reading. In other words, reading things that will specifically help me with what I’m doing. He reads a book a week. With four young children at home, I don’t have that luxury, but I can set my own goals.
Without further ado, here are my balanced and strategic reading goals for 2016:
A Leadership book. Since I am in various leadership roles.
I read The 360° Leader. See this post.
A Military book. Since I help with Army Cadets
I read Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading People.
A Financial book. Since I’m the bookkeeper for BLF Canada and the treasurer at my church
I read Financial issues for churches: Church property and legal stewardship. The main thing I got from this book was that a church can claim tax reimbursements on mileage. Our church was reimbursing our elders for mileage, and apparently I could be including that in the church’s calculations for GST rebate claims. More money for the church means it was worth while reading it! I had borrowed this book from an elder at my church.
An administration book. Since I’m the assistant to the director for BLF Canada.
I read Is There Life After Housework? by Don Aslett. This only loosely fits this category, but since I work from home, a manual on how to clean the house is about as relevant as the care and maintenance of the photocopier. (It was also Dec 30th when I finished this book, and had nothing else to cover off this category)
A book on communication. Since I communicate often. This can be written or oral
I’ve read Blogging Made Simple: Powerful Strategies For Blogging Success!, which was what helped me to actually start this blog in the first place. I have this book in Kindle, and I don’t think I paid for it. Sometime ago, it was offered for free, and Jamerrill over at the Free Homeschool Deals blog keeps a close eye on free and inexpensive resources. I found out about the book through her mailing list.
I even tripled on this category:
Read about it here
I read “19 Gifts of the Spirit” as part of sermon preparation.
Christian biography. To be inspired by the saints of old
I read Reaching for the Goal; The Life Story of David Adeney: Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Mission. Read about it here
Devotional. To encourage my inner life
In 2016 I completed One-minute Devotions For Dads. I had started this book maybe a year or two ago. My wife had bought an e-book version for me as a gift. For awhile, I read maybe one a week. But come 2016, it became the devotional I was reading every day. I found it helpful for establishing the habit of taking time for “devotions”. In the end though, it was more like Biblically based parenting advice. Many of the devotional thoughts made no direct reference to scripture, even if it was good advice for fathers to consider.
Commentary. To feed my intellectual way of connecting with God while going deeper in the Word
I’ve worked through The Message of Ezekiel, by Christopher J.H. Wright
Something from 2nd Temple Literature. Because after taking that Jewish Backgrounds class, I want more of this!
I read the Genesis Apocryphon in my copy of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, one of my textbooks from my Jewish Backgrounds to Christianity class. I also read the section about the Apocryphon from another Jewish Backgrounds textbook, Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah.
The Genesis Apocryphon is a retelling of Genesis. Details are added and changed. Whenever the Apocryphon changes a detail or adds a detail (and you only notice this if you know the actual account from the Bible), it can be helpful to ask “why?” The answer usually leads to a question that the Jews may have had about the text, or reveal something they weren’t comfortable with. Noticing the question behind the text (for the text itself is the attempt at an answer), may show you something you hadn’t considered before (or at least give an opportunity to consider again).
For example, in the Genesis Apocryphon, Abraham has a dream before entering Egypt. In the dream there are two trees, and men come to cut down one of the trees and take it away, but one of the trees says they are of the same family, so the trees are allowed to stay together.
Naturally, this dream is not in Genesis 12. Why was it added in? Perhaps the ancient Jews were uncomfortable with their beloved patriarch engaging in such deception without instructions to do so from God.
And yet there is the problem. What do you do with the “heroes of the Bible” when they are doing questionable things? We need to remember that the real hero is God. We can’t put Abraham on a pedestal, just like we can’t put our pastor on a pedestal. God is the hero.
A Patristic Fathers book. After taking the Patristic Fathers class, I’ve wanted more! My favorites were Chrysostom, Athanasius and Tertullian.
I read Chrysostom’s homily on Matthew 26:19 (From my copy of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series 1, Volume 9). I’m still amazed by his ability to set up good questions for the text to get me to ponder something. If Jesus said “I and the Father are one”, how can he pray “Not my will, but your will be done?” Chrysostom then uses this passage to teach the doctrine of the humanity of Christ (against the heretics of the day that said Jesus’ humanness was an illusion), along with other applications.
(I put up an Amazon link since I like the little pictures of books, but it’s available for free on the ccel website)
Biblical Language Grammar. I am doing the MABLE, after all.
A book in French. Since I live in French Quebec and want to get better at the language.
I read Dons pour le Service. This is a book about Spiritual Gifts which I read in conjunction with 19 Gifts of the Spirit in preparation for a sermon series on Spiritual gifts.
A book on marriage. Since I’m married.
My wife and I read Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. See here.
A book on parenting or homeschool. Since I’m a homeschooling parent.
I read “Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling” by Diana Waring. Read about here.
A novel. Sometimes I just want to read fiction that doesn’t have to fall neatly into another category.
I read Volume 3 of the Christy Miller Collection. This includes three books:
A romance novel. My wife thrives on story and writes her own romances. By reading her favorites, I’m getting to know her better. Turns out I like them!
My wife and I read Helsinki Sunrise (Passport to Romance) together. My wife is actually a member in ACFW, and knows the author (at least over email). This story takes place in Finland, which gives a taste of the culture, and one of the characters is on a prayer retreat. I found that the main “after taste” from the book a day or two later was that I was encouraged in my own prayer life. Funny how stories can do that better than sermons, sometimes.
A classic. I find I understand the culture better if I’ve read “the classics.” They also give me a sense of accomplishment.
I read “The Swiss Family Robinson”, which is free on Kindle, since it is in the public domain.
Wow! I was amazed at how profoundly Christian the book was. The story is told as if the father of the family is writing a journal about his family’s experiences on a deserted island. The father is not only concerned with their survival, but is still taking time to be a spiritual leader, guiding the moral and character development of his sons right from the first day even in the midst of such trials, leading his family in prayers, making sure they rest on Sundays, etc. I find that the book encouraged me in my own role as a father, looking with greater interest to the character development of my own children.
I’ve read Ambush by Sigmund Brouwer (Robot Wars book 3). The review is here.
I also read Counterattack (Robot Wars book 4). The review is here.
Fantasy or Medieval. I just enjoy it. Maybe I’ll write in this genre one day, too.
I’ve read Draven’s Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. My wife discovered this author because a book called Heartless was being offered as a free e-book. She recommended the Goldstone Woods series to me, and I’m hooked! Draven’s Light is a novella after 7 gripping novels in that series. I think the main after-taste was the idea of personal sacrifice. I read this book in a day.
Mystery. I just enjoy it, and enjoy the mental challenge.
I read A Study in Scarlet, from my ebook copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection. Having seen the new Sherlock movies with Benedict Cumberbatch, I was curious about the originals. I can see many similarities, but the motive for the first one was so vastly different in the book. Mormonism as a major factor, for instance. After reading the book, I felt I understood the roots of Mormonism better, wondered if I could have solved the mystery if I had taken more time to think about it, and was also inspired to read a Western (which was on my list anyway, I just chose to do it next).
A Western. Again, because many of my wife’s favorites are romances in Western settings. By reading her books, I get to know her better.
I read one of my wife’s favorites, Calico Canyon, the 2nd book in Mary Connealy’s Lassoed in Texas series. (I read book 1 last year). I quite enjoyed it, and was encouraged to work hard at my own things God has given me to do. My wife asked me to read some of her favorite scenes out loud to her so she could enjoy it again.
My wife and I also read Mary Connealy’s “The Husband Tree” together.
A book from the Essential Man’s Library. Because I’m a man. I don’t necessarily endorse the entire website, since I have not explored it in depth, but I like the idea of a “man’s library.”
I read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. See here.
These didn’t fit in my original categories, but I also read: