I thought I would blog a little more about some of the books that have most influenced my life during the past few years. After reading his book, To Be Told, I drove four hours to St Louis to participate in a two-day conference put on by Dan Allender. The event was held at a big church, and I sat with hundreds of people as we listened to this man in his sixties talk for hours, never flinching from his story of being sexually-abused; of growing up with a father who barely spoke to him; about drug addictions and run-ins with the law; about how he accidental-ed his way into seminary with his best friend, a guy named Tremper Longman III; and about Allender’s long-term marriage with a woman who had a tendency to surprise him by jumping out of closets.
I’m glad to plug a book that a couple colleagues of mine have published. Alison Smith and Jill Vanderwall are career counselors who started a business to share their years worth of experience, knowledge, and wisdom. Admittedly, my interest in this book is also personal in that I helped edit the book! If you’re thinking about your own career development or your child’s, Career Exploration: 101 Questions to Ask Your Teen during High School might be for you. You can purchase a copy here.
My reading hasn’t always been this focused, but I’ve found that almost everything I’ve read in the past few years could be classified into three categories: memoir, self-help, or social sciences/cultural commentary. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there are some commonalities those genres. Chalk it up to the the #therapythirties if you’d like, but I suppose at my core I’ve been interested in a few very basic questions. How does this world work? Is it possible to change? What is the good life?
It’s no stretch to say that the work (and the reading) has been fueled by its share of discontent, by the frustration and disappointment of feeling like life isn’t turning out the way I want it to. The good news is that the journey — both in and outside of the reading — has been incredibly rich and that there have been signs of progress along the way. I feel more hopeful now than I ever have before. For anyone who’s interested, here are 15 books — which I’ve grouped into six different topical categories — that I’ve found helpful along the way:
A huge thanks to a friend of mine who recently pointed me to Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and his Gay Son. And to Zeal Books, too, for taking the risk of publishing this brief, dual memoir. It’s a beautiful book, one that tells the best kind of story. I can only hope that droves of both Christians and members of the LBGTQ community will read and learn it, as it’s the best attempt I’ve seen of taking both of these “sides” seriously, of seeing the kind of nuance and complexity that the issues the book brings up deserve. Along with the publisher, I also suspect that the book will make both communities uncomfortable, and that the discomfort could be productive if handled well. I won’t be able to fully replicate the book’s beauty and usefulness here, but I’ll try my best to give you a glimpse of what I read and heard.
If I have a least favorite question in the English language, it might be: “Are you a Christian?” It’s a question that gets thrown pretty quickly in the direction of any artist or thinker or politician that shows an openness toward or seriousness about God or spirituality. My dislike of the question is first of all about what the question does. What I mean is, asking it is often a way to peg people as in-or-out, loveable-or-dismissible. Unfortunately this question gets asked in this way by many who believe, some who don’t, and probably everywhere in-between. But it seems to me that if these kinds of distinctions and categories have to be made, perhaps it might be best to let God be the One to make them.