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Reading Challenge Q1

My goal this year is to read a book a week.  As of right now, I am 2 books ahead of schedule.  For any bookworms out there, I am on the website Goodreads under my name, Ernesto Alaniz.  Here are the books I have read this year with a short paragraph review.

Unapologetic by Francis Spufford

    Imagine C.S. Lewis if he were your drunken, cussmouth brother.  It is honest, insightful, nowhere near orthodox, and completely accessible.  He is a man torn between Biblical authority and the rise of secular thought.  It is a hard place to live, and I do not cast stones where he differs from myself.  

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

    A collection of short stories from an American mainstay.  I don’t know if any of the stories comes close to touching the dread created in the first story.  King captures male adolescence so well.  The story is of course rated R due to the fact that it is full of 13 year old boys… and who is more R rated that that?  But the collection has some good horror and even a few laughs.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

    I feel like I spent a summer in Spain after this story.  All in all, I didn’t like it.  It was written well, and it took me there.  But how I loathed these characters.  Strong men sniveling with weakness.  Weak men revealing the truth about the so-called strong.  And in the center, a Man-Eater who carries behind her all the men in the world on dog leashes.  On a good note…  have always thought Hemingway has written women as very weak and docile.  It was about time he gave that treatment to men.

The Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    A classic.  One of the greatest stories ever written.  Atticus Finch one of the greatest heroes ever to rise from fiction.  He stands above Indiana Jones and Jack Reacher; above Han Solo and Captain America.  I read this in its entirety and was surprised how horrifying the scene with Atticus outside the jail.  He is without fear…. until his children come into the night.  Then he remembers that he has so much to lose.…  Having children has changed me.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

    This book is very controversial.  Many have cried racism at this story… why am I surprised at how soft and weepy humanity can be?  Anyways… this is not the great story of Mockingbird.  This actually has a very odd and unique history.  But this stands next to Mockingbird.  This makes Atticus human.  And that was hard even for me.  Reading this story was very good for me.  It helped me to actually understand race relations in shoes other than my own.  I do not call it racist.  I call it human.  I call it history.  I call it the difficulty in reaching our hands across the great divide.  A good read, but very difficult.  If the end hadn’t been so profoundly good, it would’ve broken my heart.

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper

    This book is written by the son of famous theologian John Piper.  I read this because i am a pastor, and I have kids.  And I don’t want my children to grow up hating God or us.  The book isn’t necessarily good.  It’s too long and it tends to skew to whimpering self-pity.  Reading it as someone who didn’t have a father, it was odd hearing someone complain so openly about having an imperfect dad who didn’t love well.  Man…. cut a dude some slack.  He’s just a man.  Regardless, it was good for me to read, and it gave me some things to think about.

The Song Machine by John Seabrook

    This is a book about how top 40 Pop music is created.  In this story Rock and Roll is the enemy, while making hits is the prize.  This story really focuses on the most recent hit factory (though looking back with reverence unto Motown and Phil Spectre).  The book was fascinating as music history.  But it is sad that Rock is really dead, and songwriting as profession will survive only on the periphery.  

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

    Sigh.  I am not a liberal.  I don’t hate myself enough, or hate white people enough to carry that label.  This book leans in that direction very strongly.  Most will not be able to read something like this because the bias is overwhelming.  Everything is the white man’s fault.  Nothing falls at the feet of anyone else.  There is not one moment where personal responsibility is brought to bear.  But, beyond the bias there is a real argument.  I had to go and fact check certain claims, and am amazed at how the war on drugs has so profoundly decimated poor black populations.  I wanted to call foul, but the author compared the war on drugs with two other societal troubles; drunk driving and the rise of recreational marijuana.  These comparisons left me silent with their implications.  This is a book I am still contemplating, and is very important for someone working with the poor on the streets on Flint, MI.  

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

    A book about the difficulty of creating.  A book all about how hard it is to stand up.  How within us there a self destruct sequence.  That when we try to dream we immediatley encounter resistance, from within and without.  A quick read with some really wise moments.  And there are moments when He comes so close to the truth.  We don’t create to be thought well, and I don’t create because I find the work to be valuable unto itself.  I agree with his final thought.  We do it for heaven.  We use the gift we have been given to honor He who bestowed it.  Straight up yeah.

Lock In by John Scalzi

    A Sci-Fi novel that bears more than one similarity to “Ready Player One.”  It is not too distant future, aftermath of a great plague, the rise of livable internet, and humanity has found new ways to hate each other.  The book was a nice escape.  I thought it would go much deeper, but turned out to be the first story in what will turn out to be a classic police procedural.  Was hoping for something much more.

The Fifth Beatle by Vivek J. Tiwary

    This graphic novel is about Brian Epting, who is lovingly called the 5th Beatle.  This again had alot of music history, although very narrow musical history.  They don’t paint a good picture of Elvis’ manager.  Watching the rise of the Beatles from the backseat was something to see.  The main character is quite the sad case study.  Alone, always trying to win the favor of some unknown force.  He died trying to earn it.  And died never holding it in hands.  That is tragedy. 

Awakening by David Robertson

    A biography about the Scottish preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne.  I have a love affair with Scottish preachers.  Sinclair Ferguson has been a great blessing to my life, as has Alistair Begg.  Looking into their history has been helpful and convicting.  The ministry of this simple preacher has caused much reflection, and his heart has moved my own.  “Alas, how is it that I have spent so little time among my town’s poor?”  It is a question that cut me to the bone.  The end of the story, reading about the fall of the Free Church of Scotland was quite disheartening.  It fell because good Godly men assumed the church had nothing to offer the city.  So they just sat in their churches and waited for the Lord to return.  And as they retreated from public life, they let their nation walk to hell.  The church of Jesus Christ is not meant to hide in a corner.  No!  She is to be active citizens, engaging the world around them.  Bringing the love and hope of Christ to neighbors, friends, enemies, widows, orphans, the poor, the rich, the young, the old, the addict, the jailed…. the gates of hell will not stand against the strong power of God upon the world.