Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Reading 2011 (Part 3)

It has been some time since my last post of book recommendations. The main reason is that the last month has been rather busy, especially compared to the month and a half before it. I taught summer school band for three weeks at the beginning of July, and last week, including the weekend before it, my family and I were on vacation in Washington, D.C. (It was a great trip – check out my Facebook photo album.)

But in between teaching and traveling, I found some time to relax with a book. Here are the three I tackled over the past few weeks.

Dominic A. Pacyga: Chicago: A Biography (2009)

This book is another part the reason for rather a long gap between postings about my summer reading. I had never really read any history of my hometown beyond what is in the occasional travel guide I sometimes browse, so I picked up Pacyga’s book with interest. Chicago: A Biography is a thick volume, and the content is substantial – more of an academic work in a trade package. It is also not strictly linear: Pacyga will often jump some years to discuss some related fact to the current topic. But in all, it was a worthwhile glimpse into some of the human stories of this great city. It was great fun to recognize place names, from neighborhoods to streets – and read about the origins of their names.

Speaking of origins of names, here is a fun fact: the name “Chicago” comes from the Native American word for “wild onion.” Before a city sat on the southwest tip of Lake Michigan, the area was a marsh saturated with wild onion growth. The smell was apparently both pungent and pervasive in the area, and word became the name for the area from the first settlers.

Randy Singer: False Witness (2007)

My chosen work of fiction for this month was, as far as I can recall, the first novel I have read in the “thriller” genre. False Witness was briefly reviewed in WORLD magazine this summer, so I found it at the library and read through it on the way to Washington. It was, if you will pardon the cliché, a real page-turner. The intricate plot involves a couple in the witness protection program, some law students, the Chinese mob, and various government officials, all brought together because of a powerful breakthrough in computer security technology. I know relatively little about any of those groups or concepts (the legal profession, computer security), but I was able to follow the drama with no trouble whatsoever. Singer is a Christian, and he masterfully creates protagonists who are Christians but still struggle with difficult decisions and circumstances (in contrast to protagonists in some Christian fiction who seem immune to the effects of sin). Overall, a good story, and well narrated by Singer.

John Stott: The Radical Disciple (2010)

As you may know, Rev. John Stott, the influential British pastor and author, passed way last week. I decided to read a Stott book because I had heard of his passing, but I picked this one in particular because it relates profoundly to the current sermon series at my church. (As an interesting side note, my more regular readers may recall that I visited the London church he pastored for many years, All Souls Langham Place, during my trip to England last summer.)

The Radical Disciple is, quite explicitly, Stott’s farewell address. He addresses at a very basic level, eight “neglected aspects of our calling” as followers of Christ. He uses the word radical in its oldest sense, meaning of or relating to the root of something or someone. The book is filled with anecdotes from Stott’s life of traveling, ministering, and collaborating with others, as well as Stott’s straightforward commentary on relevant passages of Scripture – combining to offer unique insights on these aspects of discipleship.


What is on your reading list these days? Please share any recommendations.

This is Rubio, over and out.

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