Category Archives: Reading/Books

My Top 10 Books of 2019

This last year has been a difficult one for me in regards to reading. I have started back to seminary for my MDiv. and have been mostly reading books for school. However, recently I have taken to audio books to so that I can listen to books for pleasure while having to read books for school. That being said, some of these books on my Top 10 list were listened to and some were actually read. None of the books below are new books. Some are decades old and a few are over a century old. I’m slow to the “classic” book scene. So, without further ado:

10. Jackson by Ralph K. Andrist (Audio)
A biography about Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States: Old Hickory.  This was a very quick, introductory type biography that went from his parents’ arrival from Ireland to the Battle of New Orleans to his presidency, the paying off of America’s debt and the Trail of Tears, concluding with (obviously) his death. If you’re an Andrew Jackson fan, this is not the biography for you. However, if you are wondering who the man was and not sure about diving into a longer biography, this is the one for you. It’s not a boring read; at times it’s funny and other times surprisingly captivating.

9. A Bully Father: Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children by Joan Patterson Karr
The actual biography in this book was not at all bad. Joan Paterson Kerr, who wrote the biographical essay (80 pages), did an excellent job writing the highlights of TR’s life. For anyone who isn’t too familiar with the 26th President, but doesn’t want to wade into the waters of a more well-known bio, like Edmund Morris’s trilogy, this would be the one I would recommend. My favorite story she told of the president was when Roosevelt went up into the attic to play with his children and their friends. One young boy turned out the lights and TR banged his head on a board. He chided the children and went down to clean the blood off his forehead. When he returned, he found the boy (Looker) who turned off the lights, stuffed into a trunk with the others sitting on it. Roosevelt could hear the fear from within the trunk and ordered the children off it. “‘Suddenly the lid opened,’ Looker recalled, “and TR looked down into my face. He was quick with his handkerchief, too, wiping my face, and almost as quick to say, “He’s broken out in a sweat! The moth-balls have got into his eyes, and may them water!” This he said, to explain his wiping away the tears which I thought was fine of him,'” (pp 79-80). I think that was fine of him as well.

For a full review, click/tap here.

8. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Audio)
Who hasn’t read this book before? Me! That’s who. I have heard this book ridiculed or mocked my entire life; I mocked it as well–in ignorance. This book is actually quite simple in its approach to treating people. In some ways, it can seem that Carnegie is advising manipulation, but the goal is simply to make sure everyone gets a win-win situation. What is nice about the book is that after explaining (or even while explaining) a technique, Carnegie gives multiple examples for different aspects of people’s lives (parents, supervisors, friends, etc.). If you’ve never read it, pick up a copy (or listen on audio).

7. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Audio)
Again, I’m late to the game on this. That being said, it is an interesting read. It reads as if you’re listening to someone tell the story in person. It’s as if you’re sitting by a fireplace and listening to a friend who stops and starts and makes sure you’re understanding what he’s saying. It got somewhat annoying at times, but not enough to detract from the story. However, I would say that if you’ve seen the movie (especially the Disney version with Jim Carrey, you’ve essentially read the book).

6. Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution by Myron Magnet (Audio)
This was two books rolled into one. It was a biography of sorts, but for the purpose of telling how Justice Thomas was made into the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court. From his impoverished early years and moving in with his grandfather to his short stint of liberal ideology to his becoming a justice, the reader finds such detail as to understand why Thomas is the way he is. Along with the biography is an explanation of how America has gotten into the liberal/progressive mess it is in, in which the Constitution is all but ignored, and new rights suddenly get found. I heard two interviews with the author and read a speech by him, that pulled me to read (listen actually) to this book. Definitely recommend it.

5. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
The Bible has a lot to say about how Christians are to be growing in their Christian walk. The only way to do it though is through discipline. Disciplining the body is difficult; disciplining the soul is that much harder. Whitney walks the reader through the various ways that a Christian is to be disciplined in order to grow into and maintain a healthy Christian life.

4. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Audio)
What a fun book! My favorite part was when Long John Silver and his mutineers were shooting up the cabin on Treasure Island with the Captain, doctor, and Jim Hawkins. My eyes were as wide as saucers wondering what would happen next. I’ve only heard bits and pieces as to what the book was about. I didn’t even know if the treasure was found. All that to say…If you haven’t read this book, pick up a copy and read. It is the quintessential adventure story.

3. Turning Every Day Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins
In seven quick chapters, Scroggins and Wright take us on a journey of evangelism. Because of my wanting to know about how to transition better, I jumped to chapter three (apparently missing that chapter four was titled “Transition to the Gospel”). Chapter three was about “Everyday People and Conversations”. The premise is that if one is having an actual conversation with someone, a problem or unwanted circumstance will eventually come up. That’s the cue to transition to the gospel. “Our conversations are never completely random or altogether open-ended. People are often looking to us to offer meaningful responses,” (p. 52). The only question is: can we give the most meaningful response? With the help of this book, the answer is yes.

For a full review, click/tap here.

2. Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
Don Whitney has done it again. He takes something that seems to bewilder most people and simplifies it and yet enhances it all at the same time. From the first chapter, Whitney understands the struggle that most Christians have with prayer. “We can be talking to the most fascinating person in the universe about the most important things in our lives and be bored to death,” (p. 12). That statement isn’t so much an indictment against those who struggle to find prayer meaningful, but an acknowledgement that something has happened to our understanding of what prayer is. One thing I found humorous about this book is that Don Whitney says the same sentence time and again, and I am sure he did it for effect. If you pick up the book and read it, you’ll understand; I won’t give it away.

For a full review, click/tap here.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (Audio)
This was my favorite book of the year. It is also now my favorite fiction book ever written! Ain’t no way I actually read the 1,000+ pages. That’s what audio books are for. It took 48 hours for this book to be read by a professional actor. If you’ve seen the movie, as good as it was, it is not even close to the book! It’s a completely different story line (almost). The way Alexander Dumas was able to interweave every part of this book was just fascinating to me. Parts that seemed to have nothing to do with the story line suddenly show how important they were twenty chapters (I’m guessing) later. I was not as impressed with The Three Musketeers that I had listened to earlier, so I went into this book with some reservation. I’m glad I took the time to listen all the way through. It was an immensely satisfying book.

Book Review: Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West

DrawIf you enjoy a good western, you’ll most likely enjoy Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West. It is a book that was written by James Reasoner back in 2003. My son picked up for me for Father’s Day last year. In this book, you’ll find true historical short-stories about various bad guys and lawmen shooting it out. There are train-robberies, bank-robberies, and an occasional stage-coach robbery. Reasoner writes each account with whit and imagination, and by that I mean, he paints the picture with enough detail to get the scene into the mind’s eye of the reader, but not so much detail that one would get bogged down. Reasoner is known for his historical fiction writing, but in this case it is true-to-life-history. If he is adding a bit of detail, he’ll let you know by saying something like “he was probably squinting.” But little speculations like that do not occur that often.

The book is divided into six parts: 1) Man to Man, 2) Gangs, 3) Posses, 4) Holdups, 5) Backshooters, and 6) Gunfighting Mishaps and Misfortunes. Each story in each part is a stand-alone story. Though some are inter-related in that they involve some of the same characters, you don’t need to read one before understanding another. This is one of those books that you can pick up, read a chapter in 15 minutes (if you’re as slow a reader as I), and put down for a while if need be. It took me just under a year to finish this book, not because of its size or a lack of interest. It is neither large nor boring. But only because it is such a “when I have no pressing matters” kind of book. There’s no long story-line to remember. That’s just one of the many reasons I enjoyed this book.

Read stories about Doc Holliday, the forgotten Earp brother, the Dalton Gang, Wild Bill Hickok and more without all the hype and unbelievable legend stuff. That being said. . . The last chapter is rather unbelievable, but apparently true. It was my favorite story of the book.

The book has 294 pages but a whopping 31 chapters! Published by Berkley Books, Draw is definitely a book I would recommend to novice or western enthusiast. I told some of the stories to my children of various ages and they loved them; I am sure you will too. Amazon.com has it on sale for $12.49. But you can buy a good used copy from Half Priced Books for about $3.00