Because life is a series of edits

Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Booklist 2013

In Books on December 26, 2013 at 7:33 am


A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked what I had been reading lately. Without trying to be funny, I blurted out an honest answer: “Email.”

I almost didn’t post a booklist this year as I was too embarrassed by how little reading it seemed to represent. But, the fact is, I did read some during this craziest of years (school merger, foster care, etc.), so rather than break titles down across months, I’ll just list them all here together along with my enjoyment rating for each out of 10.

I always appreciate recommendations and suggestions (leave in the comments, please), as I have a gift card to Barnes & Noble burning a hole in my pocket. Happy reading.

  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek – appreciated Sinek’s (at times overbearing) “Why?” approach, but the writing was repetitive and read like a business book (which it is). (6)
  • Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini – didn’t really finish this one; church consulting books aren’t my gig. (4)
  • When Athens Met Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical and Christian Thought by John Mark Reynolds – the staff summer read for our teachers, this was a good philosophy primer (particularly on the pre-Socratics) with a helpful thesis claiming that the classical and Christian worlds can not only be friends but also need and benefit from one another. (8)
  • The Prince & the Pauper by Mark Twain – found this and a handful of other Twain titles in a used bookstore on our way home from Hannibal over the summer; love Twain, and the story was okay, but this was not one of my favorites. (5)
  • Matthew: The Gospel of Identity by Michael Card – the third of what will be a total of four commentaries on each of the Gospels, Mike again does a good job bringing the great theme of Matthew (identity) down to the bottom shelf for the rest of us. (7)
  • The Aeneid by Virgil – listened to this via Audible along with a Great Books course for background and help, but still didn’t really make heads or tails of it; still, love Virgil’s poetry (even translated into English) and in awe of this work. (8)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – re-read this over a weekend in preparation for our upcoming Gatbsy Gala in February; still period-defining in so many ways, but the writing wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it being. (7)
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis – almost put it down after the first 20 pages (the cosmic bus ride was a little much to take), but glad I didn’t; the chapter in which Lewis channels George Macdonald was completely worth it. (8)
  • Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas – biography choices (George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson) were well and good, but reads like a junior high textbook; biography for Twitter culture. (5)
  • The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday by Simon Nissenbaum – a Pulitzer-prize finalist, this is a well-documented and readable treatise on the American Christmas; surprisingly (or not), we’ve celebrated much the same for the past 200 years. (9)
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck – implications of the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset are huge for education…and just about every other area of life; a simple idea that doesn’t feel trendy – just right (7)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – listened to this one while traveling with the family over Christmas; super slow start, but strong characters and an interesting storyline made for some good enjoyment for all. (7)
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – Gladwell’s thesis that successful people are not always geniuses as much as products of particular cultures and communities is powerful; great storytelling and insightful analysis. (8)
  • The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays by Wendell Berry – love this compendium of farm-focused essays; I’ve read half of them before, but Wendell’s vision of the simple (but not simplistic) life never gets old. (9)

Ten Years of “Being Social” Online

In Books, Internet, Technology, Thought, Web/Tech, Writing on December 14, 2013 at 7:55 am

Craig with Books

I started blogging ten years ago when my book, TwentySomeone, came out (note the computer screen in the pic). Working on the website for the book, I wanted a way to post interesting links and speaking engagement details on the front page. My friend Will Leingang suggested adding a blog (which at the time I didn’t know was slang for “weblog”) but, because I trust Will in all things technology, I said sure.

This was one of the rare times in my technological life when I’ve been an early adopter. Back in the day, blogs were THE social media; we used them for posts, but also for those communiques that Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (and about a dozen others) are now used – short sentence updates, interesting articles or links, and the ubiquitous personal opinion.

I miss those days, not because everything was in one place (though that was nice), but because there was usually actual interaction; it was enjoyable to read a comment thread that had some actual comments and didn’t just let one get away with the generic “Like” or “Favorite”.

The phenomenon of “liking” or “favoriting” something without explanation is interesting to me. I watch my online “friends” and “followers” drop “likes” and mark “favorites” on a variety of statements, declarations, questions, links, videos, song lyrics, poems, memes, and quotes and I sometimes wonder if they’re doing that out of actual reason or merely relationship.

The most interesting phenomenon (at least on Facebook) is what seems the obligatory “like” of the new profile picture. I’m struck by how – regardless of actual beauty – people are so quick to approve and at times (let’s be honest) lie out of some assumed responsibility that if they don’t, the person who just uploaded the profile picture will suffer some great self-esteem loss and throw themselves off a bridge.

“What a beautiful picture!”
“You’re so hot!”
“What a gorgeous family!”

I suppose there are plenty of people who want, need, and look for comments like these to justify their existence, but there are also those of us who think of the profile picture as simply an identifier and nothing more. Forgive us for not swooning over your latest profile update – it’s not personal, even though you might take it to be so.

Another thing I’ve found interesting over the past ten years of blogging and “being social” online is how much time it takes to really do well. The media are different, but they all require intentionality to do them right. Twitter’s 140 characters force one to be uber-succinct, whereas a blog (at least that folks read) demands interesting writing since something else is always one quick click away. Facebook posts tend to benefit from some kind of photo or artwork to break up the design monotony, but I still haven’t figured out to what Google+ best lends itself as I really don’t use it all that much even though I feel semi-guilty that I should as it seems strangely superior as this “social evolution” art implies:


All of this – uber-succinctness, writing worth reading, finding and uploading pics and art – requires dedicated time, a commodity most of us find only in small amounts. It may just be my particular stage in life, but where I once used to think that the key to writing productivity lay in using and mastering 15-minute bites, I now am down to trying to make the most of 5-minute ones. This works well enough for tweets and updates, but not so much for blog posts and books.

While I’ve taken a few hiatuses from social media (the longest being an intentional six-month respite from blogging), I’ve never thought seriously about quitting (though like an alcoholic or chain smoker, I promise I can quit anytime). I’ve read and even written about the dangers of social media (click here to read multiple years’ worth of my posts on this topic and technology), but I still find it engaging and stimulating – not as a replacement for books, but neither as a complete waste of time either.

So I’ll continue blogging, tweeting, and posting, and thank you in advance for reading, retweeting, and sharing. I’m not sure why you do, but I confess I’m glad for it, much like I imagine the person posting a new profile picture probably appreciates the comments.

Just don’t lie to me and call me “hot”.