Books to broaden your horizons

5 reasons preachers should read widely:

 

1.    Reading widely helps you connect with people

William Nicholson the screenwriter gives CS Lewis a fantastic line in the film Shadowlands:

“We read to know we are not alone.”

As we read we encounter another person’s inner voice. We see life through the author’s eyes. Getting to know the author through the books we read is a great training ground for developing empathy; seeing the world from another person’s perspective; something that a mature preacher is good at. But reading widely gives us insight into the world of other people are experiencing.  I have started many a conversation with a fellow traveller on a bus, train or plane by asking people if they are enjoying the book they are reading. People have often connected with a book at a very personal and emotional level as the book has become a companion to their lives so we often end up having pretty profound conversation.

2.Reading enlarges your understanding of the world

I look back on some of my early preaching and realise that I used to make naive pronouncements on all sorts of subjects because I thought I understood the scriptures on a subject but really I had just read in my limited understanding onto the text. The more you read the more you realize you don’t know, with great learning should come great humility. If your reading at least helps you to know what you don’t know this will make you a much wiser preacher.

3.   Reading helps you to develop your attention span

Nicholas Carr talks about the fact that our brains are being rewired by constant use of the internet. Now I am no luddite and am wary of scaremongering about the negative effects of technology. Reading books and not just articles and tweets can help us to develop the practice of deep reading. Of having to work hard to understand an argument and master a subject. One of my disciplines is to be part of a monthly book group with a group of guys that I have known for years. Our group has meant consistently without interruption for 7 years and we have challenged eachother to read about subjects that most of us know very little about. We have read about subjects that I would not normally make time for in my life: history, economics, psychology, art, astrophysics, mathematics. I have seen my appetite and appreciation for these subjects grow and my attention span begin to increase.

4. All Truth is God’s Truth

Part of worshipping God with our minds is to explore truth where ever we can find it. Augustine wrote:

A person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding those who ‘though they knew God did not glorify him as God’ . . .

The better informed we are the better we help to model how to engage scripture with the world we live in. Too often our preaching becomes disconnected from the thought systems and ideas that shape the culture and provide the ideological water in which our congregations swim. Reading widely can help you be aware of that water and to engage with it appreciatively and critically.

5. We want to be better equipped to equip the saints

The better informed we are about God’s world the better we can help our congregations to honour God in every part of their lives. We want to equip members of our churches to serve God not just in their coffee breaks at work but through the actual work they do. Reading widely can help us to have a greater insight into the world that our congregants occupy. . (for more on this see here) 

 

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Our blokes book group read the following books this year. Thought you might want some inspiration for the booklovers in your life. These books are not with a Christian audience in mind. I don’t expect you to agree with everything that is written in them. But they all provoked very rich conversation in our book group. Love to know any suggestions you might have to add to our reading list next year.

China in Ten Words

41qt54IVkXL._AA160_A powerful, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the past several decades, told through personal stories and astute analysis that sharply illuminate the countrys meteoric economic rise and social transformation. Framed by ten words or phrases common in the Chinese vernacular, China in Ten Words reveals as never before the worlds most populous yet most often misunderstood nation. This is a refreshingly candid vision of the Chinese miracle and all its consequences, from the singularly invaluable perspective of a leading writer living in China today.”

 

 

 The Things They Carried 

51Fiuhr5TTL._AA160_A sequence of stories about the Vietnam War, this book also has the unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme. It aims to summarize America’s involvement in Vietnam, and her coming to terms with that experience in the years that followed.

 

 

 

Unapologetic

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Unapologetic is a brief, witty, personal, sharp-tongued defence of Christian belief, taking on Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. But it isn’t an argument that Christianity is true – because how could anyone know that (or indeed its opposite)? It’s an argument that Christianity is recognisable, drawing on the deep and deeply ordinary vocabulary of human feeling, satisfying those who believe in it by offering a ruthlessly realistic account of the bits of our lives advertising agencies prefer to ignore. It’s a book for believers who are fed up with being patronised, for non-believers curious about how faith can possibly work in the twenty-first century, and for anyone who feels there is something indefinably wrong, literalistic, anti-imaginative and intolerant about the way the atheist case is now being made. Fresh, provoking and unhampered by niceness, this is the long-awaited riposte to the smug emissaries of New Atheism.

 

Wanderlust 

wanderlust150What does it mean to be out walking in the world, whether in a landscape or a metropolis, on a pilgrimage or a protest march? In this first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit draws together many histories to create a range of possibilities for this most basic act. Arguing that walking as history means walking for pleasure and for political, aesthetic, and social meaning, Solnit homes in on the walkers whose everyday and extreme acts have shaped our culture, from the peripatetic philosophers of ancient Greece to the poets of the Romantic Age, from the perambulations of the Surrealists to the ascents of mountaineers. With profiles of some of the most significant walkers in history and fiction – from Wordsworth to Gary Snyder, from Rousseau to Argentina’s Mother of the Plaza de Mayo, from Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet to Andre Breton’s Nadja – “Wanderlust” offers a provocative and profound examination of the interplay between the body, the imagination, and the world around the walker.

Psychopath Test

mzi.fwqpwzhq.225x225-75What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness. Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything . . . Combining Jon’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges.

 

 

Brain Rules

 

book_brain_rules1See how the brain works while using it in the process of reading this book! Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know – like that physical activity boosts your brain power.How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget – and so important to repeat new information? Is it true that men and women have different brains?In “Brain Rules”, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule – what scientists know for sure about how our brains work – and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.Medina’s fascinating stories and sense of humour breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that we have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes.

 

Moscow, December 25th, 1991

History always comes down to the details. And when it comes to the fall of the Soviet Union, the details are crucial, especially when such an era-defining event hinged on the bitter personal relationship between two powerful men, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.

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On the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Cold War, Conor O’Clery has built his compelling and brilliantly constructed narrative of the fall of the Soviet Union around one day, December 25, 1991, the date Gorbachev resigned and the USSR was effectively consigned to history. From there, O’Clery looks back over the events of the previous six years: Gorbachev’s reform policies of glasnost and perestroika; Yeltsin’s ignominious fall and then rise to the top; the defiance of the once docile Soviet republics; the failed August coup by the hardliners; and the events that swiftly followed until a secret meeting in a central European forest sealed the fate of the communist monolith and the clock ticked down to the last day.

The result is an intricately detailed, thoroughly researched book, based on interviews with many of the key figures in a drama of Shakespearean intensity as well as contemporary reportage, the memoirs and diaries of key political figures and official documents. The book is written at a breathtaking, dramatic pace, drawing the reader in as it focuses equally on the personal and historical stories.

Moscow, December 25, 1991 is set to become a defining book on the fall of the Soviet Union.

One thought on “Books to broaden your horizons”

  1. I agree entirely, Krish. Preachers should read widely, and *especially* books by authors who do not share the same point of view as the reader. Sadly, I know of preachers and churches that discourage reading which does not toe the “party” line and this leads to a very limited outlook on life, the world and (I believe) God.

    It was interesting to see what your book group has been reading and there are several titles that will be going onto my own “to read” list. I was relieved to see that not all the books were by male authors, but disappointed to see only one female author represented. I know it’s a “blokes book group”, but I think we men benefit from opportunities to see the world through the eyes of the other gender. The same applies to sexualities other than our own, too, though this might be controversial in many evangelical circles. But fear of controversy should not be an excuse for ducking important issues.

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