My goal is to read a book a week for the entirety of 2016. So far, so good. Here is the next installment in that journey.
“IT” by Stephen King
When I was a boy, I watched this made for TV movie from behind the safety of my mother’s doorway. To this day, I am still scared of clowns. But that TV movie had a really bad ending, and I had to know if that’s what it was. So, I read this massive tome of a book. My findings are as follows: the structure of the narrative was not effective. The TV movie essentially told two stories. The first story is of a group of children who face an awful evil and defeat it, though not in its fulness. They make a covenant that if it ever returns they will come back to face IT again. Part 2 of the story is them as adults and having to remember what they have forgotten and face the old evil again. The novel is much different. As you walk through the story, you never really know what happened then, and therefore don’t fully know what is happening now. They don’t remember facing the evil as children until they are at IT’s door, and so there are like two side by side climaxes. Reading it was jarring and unpleasant. The not knowing for so long did not so much create mystery as withhold from the reader emotional weight that would have given the present more tension.
On top of that, there is an scene so awful, so stupid, so weird, that it overshadows the entire novel. Message boards call it “that scene.” All in all, I say the book was a loser. No go. Didn’t like it.
The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman
A business book with a very simple premise. The author makes the assertion that a starfish possesses its fullness in each leg of its star. If you cut one piece off and throw it down the beach, another starfish will grow. But a spider is a single organism. You cut off a leg, and it is now weaker and unable to function. His thesis is that organizations should consider building leaderless organizations. Organizations like the starfish where the DNA of the organization belongs to no one, isn’t centralized, and can multiply easily. He talks about Alcoholics Anonymous, and how they were able to allow this decentralized model to change the world of recovery. But as he gives example after example, he reveals a very observable flaw to his argument. Building something decentralized means building something that will never be powerful. It will not make its creator a fortune. It will not create an empire to pass down. For anyone wanting to build a large corporation, or to create a movement that is able to truly influence thinkers and leaders, decentralized systems just don’t cut it.
So, the book is clever. Simple premise. Didn’t need to be so long. And I think the guy is wrong.
Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Wilink
Sigh. These guys apply military precision to business dealings. I didn’t like it. Not poorly written. Not stupid guys. Just not for me.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
Another book on business. This book makes a very bold assertion. He says the way to truly be an entrepreneur is by building or buying a franchise. This is where success and money is. He makes a very compelling case as to why McDonald’s is the safest bet for a normal person. You get to the buy the proven systems. You get it all boxed up and have the support to do what only what you need to do.
Reading this book as a pastor brought much fear into my heart. Cause I see much of the teaching of this man being brought into church world. And the church is not a franchise. The church is more than systems and how tos. It is not meant to be a successful business. It is not meant to make money for the builder. It is meant to make disciples. It is meant to do this by baptizing and preaching Jesus. And I see some people trying to figure out how to franchise church, and I think there are some real dangers in applying these effective business practices into God’s holy family.
I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom Rainer
A book about being on mission as a Christian. Simple. Straight forward. Helpful. I now give this book as a gift to every family that joins Flint City Church.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. And this book shows all the weaknesses inherent in his old man. This book has a really cool premise. It would make a great TV show or even straight to TV movie. Some mold called Dragonscale has appeared in the world. When people get it, eventually the mold will ignite and the person will spontaneously combust. So now you have your end of the world scenario.
Alas, the camera lens focuses in on a small campsite in New England. Some infected people have gathered together, a cult is born, and there is a series of often uneventful back and forth power struggles. There are moments, there are good scenes. But on the whole, I found myself getting bored alot. I was annoyed at characters choices and the story’s pacing.
So, all in all, I didn’t like it. And titular Fireman… he never really came into focus. He was the guy I wanted to get to know the most, and you never hang out with him. Bleh.
The Third Book of the Dun Cow: Peace at Last by Walter Wangerin Jr
The book of the Dun Cow is a fantasy tale told by a Jesus loving man. The fantasy takes place in a world where animals live under the watchful eyes of the Maker. And what they do when evil enters the world. Book one is facing evil as an enemy outside themselves, and having faith that they can overcome. Book two is what happens when that evil enters the hearts of the animals themselves. And book three….. well… after the darkness of book two, I could never find the strength to read on. Book Two is entitle the Book of Sorrows. And it is truly that. After a 5 year hiatus, I finally picked up the final volume to finish the story. And it was sad. And it was definitely PG 13. But at the end there is beauty. There is hope. And when I put the book down I was thankful to Jesus. I was thankful that His plan stands. That evil doesn’t win. If I was a softer man, I would have wept.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I just reread this wonderful children’s tale from Tolkien. I ended up telling an abridged version of this tale to my children every night before bed. Every night we would go on an adventure with 12 dwarves, a hobbit, and a old bearded wizard. I read to remember, and to gain a feel for the lightness and playfulness of this small book. And the kids loved it. They loved meeting Smaug. They rode down barrels. They faced hordes of spiders. They cheered when Beorn remembered. And the eagles… oh it is good to have friends when surrounded by armies of goblins!
My daughter wants me to read the actual book to her. I told her she is not ready. I look forward to the day when we can leave the Shire together. I’m told the road goes ever on and on.
And for the record…no, I will not show her the movies. They are bloated, long, needlessly dark, and not the story Tolkien told. The words are better. I don’t want to muddy the water for the tale she will make from the good words.
NEXT: The Graphic Novels I have read so far this year.