I was an English literature major in college. While many of my friends were studying practical subjects – business, accounting, pre-med – I spent four years immersed in great works of fiction. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Blake, Yeats, Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Frost, and dozens more – I read, wrote about, dissected, compared and contrasted them all.
My reading list has changed quite a bit in the 21 years since I graduated from college. I took a glance at the books stacked up on the floor underneath my nightstand and was taken aback to realize that there is not a work of fiction among them. I haven’t lost my appreciation for literature – although Chaucer and Milton aren’t exactly what I’d call pleasure reading – but my book list these days is more a reflection of what is happening in my life. Here’s what I read in my spare time these days (or perhaps more accurately – what I would be reading if I had spare time):
Coaching Youth Lacrosse by the American Sport Education Program. This has been a helpful reference for me as I’ve been assisting with coaching my daughters’ Y-League team.
Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, by Hans Zeiger. Despite the Foreword by Oliver North, I’ve found that much of this book resonates with me. While the author and I find ourselves on different sides of the political fence, as a fellow Eagle Scout I have long shared his dismay with ACLU-driven attempts to emasculate and secularize the Boy Scouts. It is, after all, a private organization – if you don’t like what it stands for, don’t join.
Now, having lost or at least antagonized my liberal readership, let me tell you about the next book in my stack: Take it Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory, by James Carville and Paul Begala. This is an entertaining political how-to manual by a couple of the sharpest minds in the business. Carville and Begala pull no punches, and suggest that the reason we’ve had 8 years of George W. in the White House is because Democrats simply stood by and handed him the keys to the front door.
The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons From an American Sensei by George Leonard was a gift from my brother. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up on my own, but it’s a fascinating read – aikido is an amazing martial art, but the book’s focus is on how you can apply its principles of composure and self-sufficiency to everyday life.
Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God by Tony Campolo is a text that we used in Sunday School a couple of years ago, but it still hasn’t made its way from the active reading pile under my nightstand to the bookshelf. This book is classic Campolo practical theology, with representative chapters including: “How to Get Ready to Die Without Pretending That It’s No Problem”, “How to Hold on to That Old-Time Religion Without Letting Go of the Post-Modern World”, and “How to be Politically Involved Without Losing Your Soul.”
Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison is another book that I’ve had for a while but haven’t shelved yet. When I need inspiration to get up and out for a run, as I too often do these days, I’m apt to read one of the 39 personal stories from ultramarathoners in this book. These folks are flat-out studs.
I have one work-related book in my stack: The New Strategic Selling by Robert B. Miller and Stephan E. Heiman. We had a consultant come in and give us a day-long training session on the Miller Heiman sales methodology a few weeks ago. Intriguing stuff – I’m hoping that I’ll be able to absorb it by osmosis if I keep the book close enough to my bedside, kind of like I did with my Calculus textbook in college. Actually, I’m hoping that it will work better for me than it did with Calculus.
Finally, the Bible. I read more of this than I do any of the others these days, if for no other reason than I have a Sunday School lesson to prepare each week. That’s not the only reason, though. Every time I open it, I take something from it.