Saturday, February 27, 2010

Great Books I've Never Read

I was staring at my one of my bookshelves in my office today, not really looking for anything, just thinking, really, when my eye stopped on a book that I have never read.  Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World by Lee Camp.  I honestly don’t remember how I came to own this book; I might have bought it myself, but most of my books have my name stamped both on the inside cover as well as on the top edge, and this one doesn’t.  Someone might have given it to me, but I am pretty sure I would remember that.  I can look in my library at every book that was a gift and remember with fondness the giver.  I sometimes will get a book sent to me for free from the publisher, in the hopes that I will read it, like it, and recommend it the congregation, but a lot of those books are very forgettable.  There’s a reason they are free; no one would pay to read them.
But as I browsed through the pages of this book, I can see that it is good.  The chapter titles are compelling, and every random page I turn to and read is filled with good stuff.  So now I’m wondering, “Why haven’t I read this book?  Why is it just sitting on my shelf?” 
Almost all of the books in my library I have read, but there are some that, for a variety of reasons, I just haven’t gotten to, and then they’ve been forgotten as I’ve moved on to newer stuff that has attracted my attention.  So that got me to thinking: what are the best books that I have never read?  Mere Discipleship is obviously on the list.  Here are some others.
The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder was first published in 1972, and while it may be a stretch to call it a classic—I’m not sure thirty-eight years is long enough to establish that something has stood the test of time—it still seems to show up in the bibliographies of a lot of books that I have read the last few years.  It obviously had influenced a lot of people, and I didn’t even own a copy.  So a couple of weeks ago I decided that I needed to read it and ordered it from Amazon.  I just got it the other day, and it has been placed up toward the top of my book queue. 
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright is the third and final volume in Wright’s trilogy, “Christian Origins and the Question of God.”  I’ve read the first two volumes: Jesus and the Victory of GodThe New Testament and the People of God, and they are good but long (650-750 small-print and footnoted pages) and very, very dense.  Wright can never be read quickly, but that’s especially true for his scholarly works, which this is.  It took me 4-6 weeks to read each of the previous two books, and it’s like finishing a marathon in that you’re glad you did it but are exhausted and in no shape to run another one right away.  It’s been a couple of years since I read the second volume, so maybe this summer I’ll tackle this one. and
There are books that it seems that everyone but you have read, and you feel like a doof when someone in amazement says, “You mean you’ve never read ___________?!”  OK, so here’s my confession: I have never read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  Yes, I know, I know, and I am sorry, I really am.  Everyone says how good they are, how Christian, how everything, but I just never felt all the compelled to read them.  I own a set of the books.  Doesn’t that count for something?  So, yeah, someday I’ll get around to them.  Probably.  Maybe.  If enough of you shame me into it.  Richard has tried, but I’m used to ignoring him, so….
As long as I am confessing my literary sins, here’s another one: Philip Yancey has written some really good books.  What’s So Amazing About Grace, The Jesus I Never Knew, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference among them.  They are really good, really insightful, and really popular.  I have even recommended them to others.  OK, here’s my confession: I have never read any of them all the way through.  I’ve started each of them, read substantial parts of them, even liked what I read, but I’ve never been able to finish a Yancey book.  I’m sure it’s me, not him, but for whatever reason I lose momentum and interest about halfway through.  It’s wrong, I know.  I need to read the last half of these really good books that I highly recommend to you.
One final Good Book I’ve Never Read: John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.  I really feel bad about this one, seeing as I am both a Christian and an English major, but it is one of those that was never assigned to me and never really made it on my radar, but it is both a Christian and a literary classic, so I am going to repent of my sin and add it to my reading queue.  Here, I’m going to stop writing right now, go over to the shelf and pull out The Pilgrim’s Progress.
There.  It’s officially in the queue.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to it.

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