In 2017, I read less than any year prior. Part of that is because I was preoccupied with the launch of The Rooted Home studies. I referenced a lot of commentaries and read a lot of online articles, but books fell to the wayside.
But I love books. I love the feel of them, the look of them, and the smell of them. I love that I can hold them when I crawl in bed or curl up on the couch. No iPhone screen can compete with the warmth of a physical, tangible, bendable book.
(Side Note: The way I bend books on their seams to get them to keep my place is one of the primary differences between my book habits and Austin’s. We also have different underlining methods, so we often have to purchase two copies of the same book if we both want to read it in any seriousness. This is what happens when seminary students get married, folks.)
I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but I am all for re-evaluating and re-considering life choices whenever the opportunity presents itself. So, moving into 2018, I want to reintroduce physical books into my everyday lifestyle. I’m planning and preparing to let screen-based reading take a backseat to book reading. And I can’t wait.
Here is what I’m planning to read in 2018:
History gives us context. It tells us who we are and where we come from. Church history isn’t something sitting on stale pages of textbooks. It’s our own history. It is the journey that our ancestors in the faith traveled to preserve the Gospel and follow Jesus – very often at great personal cost. This year, I’m going to reintroduce myself to a book on church history. Here are some that make the list:
Michael Reeves (B&H Publishing)
Iain Murray (Banner of Truth)
Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World
Larry Hurtado (Baylor University Press)
Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama
Kenneth Woodward (Convergent)
I’m a systematic theology nerd at heart. I love the order of systematics. How it can span in a million directions and follow different rabbit trails while maintaining its place in the whole. But systematic theology can often section itself off from our daily lives. We can read our theology, but if we’re not intentional we can easily neglect to connect it to our everyday living. Practical theology does just the opposite: it evaluates our everyday choices, reveals the underlying theology behind those choices, and then asks the hard questions about whether we believe what we really say we believe (or, as Jamie Smith would put it, if we love what we really think we love). Here are some of the practical theology books on my list:
Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity
Kevin Vanhoozer (Brazos)
Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture
David Murray (Crossway)
Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship
John Swinton (Baylor University Press)
The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together
Jared Wilson (Baker)
A work of fiction:
Since graduating from seminary, I have had to be more intentional to pick up fiction. During seminary, when all I was reading was textbooks and original sources, I craved fiction and intentionally incorporated it into my life (even, for a season, I read Narnia as a part of my daily quiet time because I so badly needed to see the beauty of theology and to cultivate an imagination for the redemption of the world). But since graduating, I find myself less intentional to reach for a work of fiction. So, one of these will find its way to my nightstand this year:
Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
Jesmyn Ward (Scribner)
Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage International)
An old favorite:
Reading used to be a respite for me. Since I was a child, reading was my introverted escape from a busy household (I’m one of nine children). But technology has become that escape in recent years. With the purchase of my first iPhone, the world of the internet became my hiatus from busy life (mostly Instagram and Twitter). As I reintroduce the habit of reading books, I know that I will need to cultivate a love for reading again. And the easiest way to do that is to sink into an old favorite. I just started reading Narnia again, but here are a few others that are in queue for the year as well:
Wallace Stegner (Modern Library)
Sally Lloyd-Jones (ZonderKids)
I don’t generally like biographies. They seem dry and cumbersome. But last year I read Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior. It’s a biography of Hannah Moore, a Christian abolitionist. It gripped and inspired and edified me. Like church history, it reminded me of the many who have come before me. I plan on picking up one of these biographies in 2018:
Stephen Backhouse (Zondervan)
Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk
Michelle DeRusha (Baker)
John Witherspoon’s American Revolution
Gideon Mailer(UNC Press)
Reading is a practice that forms us. It requires us to be physically still, to sit in one physical location for a time. Reading insists that we move line-by-line so that we don’t miss anything. It makes us turn the pages with our hands and not just swipe endlessly down a feed. It requires us to move in a linear direction – always forward, always in one direction – and not aimlessly wander around the web clicking on a spider-web of links uniquely tailored to us. And, perhaps most importantly, reading requires imagination; it makes us open our minds and stretch them, envisioning each character’s movement and facial expressions. As we look into 2018, let’s be stretched. And, let’s read.
Jeanette Drees says
I love your words! What a great final paragraph that describes the richness of reading. I love books and you have stretched me to consider books from genres I would not have considered. Thank you. Blessings to you.
I’m so glad, Jeanette! If you end up reading any on the list, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
Emily Cobb says
Thanks Amy for this great reminder to stop scrolling and pick-up a book! I’m too love reading when I get a chance but identified with the lure of digital worlds to escape and recharge.
Yes! I’m so web-oriented, but it is such a good practice to turn pages and smell old books. 🙂