What I read in August

stacks of books

Normally I like to share a breakdown of everything I read every month, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

Because I spent my entire summer off the blog, and then spent some more time more or less off of blogging to try to be a normal person, I am trying to catch up on sharing my reading. About a month ago, I shared what I read in July, and today I’d like to share August’s reads (look for September soon). In August, I read and listened to 10 books. Here’s the big list:

This was kind of a fun month, with a mix of fun reading, work reading and review reading, and a great recommendation from my teammate, Whit.

On books I’ve covered elsewhere

I reviewed Gay Girl, Good God for the LifeWay Books site, so I would encourage reading that in full. Caring for One Another is one that I’ve been planning a review on, but I may need to go back to it before I can pull that together. And Neverwhere is a book I’ve addressed before as well, so I will forego sharing thoughts on it, beyond saying that it continues to be a favorite. 

Batman’s gonna Batman

Tom King continues to impress with the story he’s telling through his run on Batman. This volume continues the lead-up to the big Batman/Catwoman wedding, which brings the book to its halfway point. I love the fact that King’s take is to explore whether or not Batman can be happy and still be Batman. It’s much more of an emotional exploration of the character, rather than the madness of Grant Morrison’s work, or the intensity of Scott Snyder’s run. It also is an important reminder about the versatility of a good character in the hands of different writers.

James Tynion’s Detective Comics series has been an enjoyable one, focusing on an experiment of Batman’s: to create his own army to protect Gotham. The series is, by and large, a much more straight forward superhero book, but that’s not a bad thing (although the social agenda pushing tends to be a bit much at times). These two volumes drive the series toward the conclusion of Tynion’s run (one volume after this), reintroducing Tim Drake into the world and once again splintering the Bat-family. The story beats are familiar, but a satisfying read nonetheless.

I don’t know that I really have much to say about Gene Luan Yang’s New Superman, other than it’s a palette cleansing alternative to deconstructionist storytelling. It’s less about figuring out what makes a character tick and more about the hero’s journey. The mono-myth is alive and well in this book, and even though I know exactly how the structure works, it’s always a pleasure to see it in action. 

More SNL History, The History of Pixar, and Magic + Time Travel

I remember the first time I saw Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live. It was the infamous sketch where he and Patrick Swayze were auditioning to be male dancers. The man’s confidence was as unnerving as it was hilarious. But growing up I wasn’t aware of the darker side of Farley and what drove him to pursue comedy the way he did, namely his need for approval. The Chris Farley Show offers a look at a more complicated Chris Farley than most of us would be aware of—one who struggled with substance abuse and the need to be loved, who was deeply religious, but ultimately hopeless. A man loved by many, but terribly lonely. It’s a heartbreaking book, but one I’m glad I took the time to engage with.

Creativity Inc is a book that’s made the rounds in leadership circles for quite a while now. The idea behind it is to explain why Pixar consistently makes great films through the lens of the story of the studio’s formation through its eventual sale to Disney. In all honesty, the leadership and creativity principles weren’t all that shocking, in part because they’re found in so many other books (everybody has a voice, people matter more than ideas, etc). What made it work, though, was sharing them in the context of Pixar’s history, which is actually what I cared about more in the first place. I’d call it a one-and-done. 

Then there’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, which details the exploits of a government agency (the department of diachronic operations) which uses time travel to affect and change the present (and self-fund their operations). The book is written as a series of chats, journal entries, emails, and letters, which is a fun approach, if a bit jarring at times. (Readers will note that there is also some questionable content that is generally worth skipping (you end up losing a few plot details, but it’s not a big deal). This was my first time reading a Neil Stephenson book and from what I understand it’s a bit of an unusual one to go with since he’s better known for more hard Sci-Fi where this is more of a hybrid of styles (and co-authored by historical novelist Nicole Galland). I can’t speak to his other books, but I definitely found D.O.D.O engaging, and if you can skip over the salacious bits, I suspect you’ll find it worthwhile. 


That’s it for this latest round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in July

stacks of books

Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

Another couple of months have come and gone, and with them more reading! I’ll be covering August and September in future posts, but in July, I read and listened to 12 books. Some of this was because I finished a longer one, but a big piece has to do with road-tripping. All that said, here’s what I read:

As you can see, this was a pretty varied month, with comics, memoirs, social sciences, leadership and classic novels included. But we’ll start with Batman. (Because, Batman.)

A bananas Batman event + a retelling of Superman’s origin

In June, I read the prelude to the Snyder and Capullo’s Metal series, as well as the main series itself. In July, I went ahead and got into the collections of the tie-ins of the event (a storyline that ran through a number of Batman-associated books, as well as the one-shots about the Nightmare Batman characters who appear throughout the series. (And for kicks, I decided to re-read the Metal series because it was so bananas.)

Rarely, do you find an event where the side stories are actually important. But in Metal, that’s actually the case. I really enjoyed the latter collection as I loved seeing the villainous Batmen fleshed out in detail (specially “The Batman Who Laughs”, which is brilliant conceptually). The Resistance is a strong collection, although a bit hit-or-miss with the art. Both bring necessary depth to moments that only get a panel or two in the main series, and enrich the overall reading experience (especially in comparison to the prelude series). 

Superman: Secret Origin is an excellent take on the Man of Steel’s beginnings by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, first released about 10 years ago, and is the basis of Superman’s origins in the Rebirth age as well (thanks to the magic of retconning and all kinds of comic book magic). The art is beautiful, the storytelling is excellent, and it is clearly a love-letter to the classic (and most famous) version of the character. Definitely a fun read.

SNL History, a Canadian Memoir, Culture & Grit

Live From New York was a fascinating book to engage with. I am a long-time fan of Saturday Night Live (I came of age in the Mike Myers/Dana Carvey era, just prior to Adam Sandler and Chris Farley becoming big deals). This book offers a peek behind the curtain, looking not only at the history of SNL but the way it operates. One painfully clear takeaway: the show works because of Lorne Michaels, which is both a testament to his vision for the show, but also a concern. Whenever any organization or institution is held together solely by the power of its “visionary leader,” it is more likely to disappear when that leader leaves or dies (as almost happened to SNL when Michaels quit the show in the 1980s). 

Related to this book is a memoir that is really a love-letter to my homeland, Canada by Mike Myers. I shared on an episode of my podcast that this book is at its best when it sticks to a memoir about Myers and his career. That part of the book, including the difficulties of adjusting to being a public personality in Canada and beyond, make it worth reading. Where the book falls down is by engaging in extended political discussions, particularly the great hope Myers has in then-newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While, obviously, everyone has their right to an opinion and political views, the issue I had with this is Myers is speaking mostly from ignorance about what life is like in Canada now, when he hasn’t lived their in 30 years, so many of his arguments reflect a memory of a Canada that no longer exists, or an ideal of Canada that never has existed. What he gets right in the book, though, is that Canada is a nation without a mission statement. It has no defining moment that caused it to exist, which is why so many of us struggle to figure out what it means to be a Canadian in the first place.

Moving on to happier reads are Grit by Angela Ducksworth and The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. These books both had a great deal in common with one another, particularly in my desire to build a healthy culture on the team I lead at LifeWay. The crossover comes in perseverance and purpose—specifically in helping people meet high expectations. From a culture perspective, that means creating an environment where everyone on the team feels respected and knows they can speak candidly. From a personal perspective, it comes from consistent and honest encouragement that the people on the team are up to the challenge ahead of them. They’re not particularly earth-shattering books, but they do have some super-helpful nuggets (and Grit is one of my onboarding books for new team members). 

Returning to Narnia & Concluding a Series

Despite what some curmudgeonly friends of mine like to say, the Narnia books are great. My daughters and I loved reading the books together, but I haven’t had an opportunity to do that with my son. So I started to fix that on a couple of recent road trips. We listened to the first two books in the series on the way to North Carolina and back in July and it was fantastic. The kids loved the books and were excited to listen at every opportunity. Now when we go on a road trip they’re asking if we’re going to listen to the next one (there are a couple we’ll probably skip, but you never know). 

I also had the opportunity to read the final book in the Outlaws of Time series by N.D. Wilson. This last book features a pretty massive time jump from part two of the series and shifts the focus away from Sam and Glory to a 12-year-old boy named Alex who has read stories of their exploits, and whose life gets turned upside down when he learns that Sam and Glory are his parents. (Not a spoiler—it’s in the book’s description.) This one was much shorter than the other two books in the series, but it was super-fun to read. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Wilson, or you’re just looking for something new to try, this is a good one to pick up. 


That’s it for July’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in June

Reading is fun

Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

Another month has come and gone, and with it more reading! In June, I didn’t finish a whole lot. Partly because I started an audiobook that was about 30 hours long. And then I travelled a lot so my commute time disappeared. Even so, I managed to read 7 books to completion. Here’s what I read:

  1. Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser
  2. Dark Days: The Road to Metal by Scott Snyder
  3. Bug! The Adventures of Forager by Lee Allred, Michael Allred, and Laura Allred
  4. Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
  5. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman
  6. Justice League, Vol. 2: Outbreak by Bryan Hitch
  7. The Flash, Volume 4: Running Scared by Joshua Williamson

In other words, this was a comic book heavy month. So let’s start with the not comics.

Conversations, intelligence, and evangelism

Conversational Intelligence was a very helpful read on developing and maintaining trust in conversations. This is a leadership oriented book, but it got on my radar because of some helpful takeaways that another blogger applied to marketing (how our language triggers people’s fight or flight responses). Much of marketing lives in a low-trust sphere of “try/buy” (or “tell/ask” in the author’s words). This is easy to do, but also the least effective. Instead, we need to move our conversation from this low trust point toward a sharing/discovering dynamic, which is a high-trust one. This is the most effective, but takes a lot of time. Like many leadership books, this one ultimately is a reminder of the importance of situational leadership—knowing how to lead different people appropriately, both based on context and personality. Ultimately we are required to earn the trust of our customers, partners, and coworkers.

It took me a few tries to get into The Master Plan of Evangelism. I had a hard time engaging, whether it was because of timing or something else I’m not sure. This is one of the “classic” evangelism books out there that I know a lot of people swear by. I found some aspects helpful, particularly the reality that disciple making takes care and time (in both quantity and quality).

Books with pictures: the bold and the bizarre

A little while back, I realized that I hadn’t actually been keeping my Goodreads up to date with my graphic novel reading when a few volumes from The Flash and Justice League fell through the cracks. These two volumes were re-reads to catch me up on these two series. Hitch’s Justice League got a lot of flak on initial release, and I can understand why, especially in this volume. From a storytelling perspective, Hitch’s writing tends to be reminiscent of the decompressed style of the early 2000s (where the plot of what would have been 2-3 issues was stretched over six). The ideas are fun, and the dialogue is fine, but the plot’s a bit thin. Even so, reading the book as a whole is an enjoyable experience.

If there’s one negative I have about Williamson’s The Flash series, it’s that the art is a bit jarring (lots of change, conflicting styles, and so forth). The storytelling is great, and this volume is no exception, but it continues the book’s heavy rotation of artists. Williamson does a great job with the Reverse Flash here, and creates some solid drama between Barry Allen and Iris West. And if you understood what any of that meant, you get a gold star.

Bug! was fun, goofy nonsense from the Allreds, who were responsible for the excellent Madman series in the early 1990s. The art is bright and poppy, and the story itself is sufficiently weird (a must for the imprint it’s published under). In other words, it reads like the kind of book Jack Kirby wanted his Fourth World creations to be (even if he didn’t get them there himself).

Then there’s the beginning of the Metal series, DC’s big epic event. Dark Days contains the two lead-in specials that set up the events of the main series, as well as several books published in the last 10 years that inspired the series in some way. Honestly, this is a volume that came across like a cash grab. The opening specials were interesting and worth reading, but they made up the first 60-70 pages of the book. The rest is the “other.” It’s all good stuff, but it’s an incoherent collection.

Metal itself, though, is completely bonkers. And I mean that in the best way. This book is delightfully weird, throwing Batman and the Justice League into a new and kicks off the next phase of the DCU in style. I can’t actually say much else about this book without giving anything away. It is just so delightfully weird. Do yourself a favor and get it.


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in May

Shelves of books

Another month has come and gone, and with it more reading! As you know, I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In May, I read (and listened to) 11 books to completion, and started a couple of others that I almost finished (but not quite). Here’s what I read:

  1. The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  2. Nightwing Vol. 5: Raptor’s Revenge by Tim Seeley
  3. Batman, Volume 5: Rules of Engagement by Tom King
  4. The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen
  5. Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker
  6. The Last Archer by S.D. Smith
  7. The Flash, Volume 2: Speed of Darkness by Joshua Williamson
  8. The Flash, Volume 3: Rogues Reloaded by Joshua Williamson
  9. The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company by Stephen Drotter James Noel Ram Charan
  10. Cops and Robbers: The History of the British Police Car by Ant Anstead
  11. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Books with pictures: the road to a Bat-marriage, back to the future (and 1970s fashion sense), and running really fast

I’ve written fairly extensively about Tom King’s Batman run, and at this point I’m not sure there’s more I can say. Batman: Rules of Engagement is continues his strong run as it leads up to the upcoming wedding of Batman and Catwoman.[1. For real.] Joelle Jones’ art on this storyline is lovely, as is the work by Clay Mann and Lee Weeks (a longtime favorite).

I discussed The Flash last month, and have been playing catching (and technically re-reading since I missed recording these on my Goodreads list previously). Some of the uneven bits of Williamson’s storytelling are less noticeable on a re-read, which is a great thing. Looking forward to seeing how he eventually wraps up the big story he’s building toward. On that note, Nightwing vol. 5 brings Tim Seeley’s run on the title to a close, wrapping up the Blockbuster and Raptor storylines that have been a part of the book from the beginning. Seeley’s had a great run on the character over the last four years (a chunk of which was co-written with King), and while I enjoyed this volume, I think it lacked some of the oomph of the preceding storylines.

And then there’s The Great Darkness Saga. This is a classic storyline from the early 1980s—and it’s both aged incredibly well and terribly. Well in that the storytelling itself is engaging. There’s a reason this story is remembered fondly, because it’s a terrific use of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters. But my goodness, it is definitely a product of its era. Writing styles have changed drastically in comics since this was written, so there’s a fun nostalgia to reading such an exposition heavy book, but it does hobble the pacing a bit. Then there’s the costumes, which are so terrible. So. Terrible. By the middle of the book, characters are reverting to less 70s-ish looks, but… yeah. All that to say, this was a book I enjoyed reading, but you’ve got to be in a certain mood for it.

Business, publishing, cars and assorted essays

The Leadership Pipeline was a work-read that I didn’t expect to actually find all that helpful. That is probably because I’m a pessimist. It could definitely have been shorter, but it was extremely helpful, especially as the authors describe the dangers of skipping a step in the different phases of leadership (starting with the move from leading yourself to leading others, and moving up to leading an enterprise). One key takeaway: when you don’t make the transition between each phase correctly, you risk falling back on your natural strengths—the ones that got you the job you have—but are actually inappropriate for the responsibilities you have now, which in turn leads to frustration from your direct reports. (This is something I’m watching in myself.)

I enjoyed Slugfest more than I probably should have. For the majority of people, it’s not that interesting—it’s the history of the war between the big two comic book publishers across multiple mediums. That probably sounds terribly dull, but it’s actually really engaging (and if you want a taste, go listen to the Marvel vs DC series on the Business Wars podcast). Cops and Robbers was a stretch book for me in that it is about cars. Specifically British police cars. I am not a car guy. I do not live in England. I could not tell you most of what is in the book. But I did find it fascinating nevertheless, especially as the author digs into the legislation and tensions that shaped purchasing decisions. Also, learning that automobiles used to be classified as trains is fascinating.

Last in this section is Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. This is a collection of humorous essays covering a range of topics from journaling to dating and socialized dentistry, with frequent asides related to his partner, Hugh. I enjoyed this book in part because Sedaris is a terrific writer. To pull off a book of essays, you kind of have to be. But more than style, books like this allow me to get a glimpse into the way someone totally different than me sees the world, even if it’s masked in humor.

Rabbits with bows and another Long War

The Long War is a sci-fi book co-authored by Terry Pratchett, and the first of four sequels to The Long Earth, which I read in April. It was okay. It didn’t really grab me in a way that made me feel as though I need to read another one, so I think I’m done with this series.

Finally, S.D. Smith tells great stories. I love that he is creating a larger world with his Green Ember series, and that he is exploring various side stories, all of which wind up connecting to the main plot. This time he does it with The Last Archer, following Jo Shanks, a supporting character in the core books. If you’re a fan of this series, you’re going to enjoy this book. If you’re a fan of good storytelling, you’ll also be a fan of this book. If you’re a fan of character development you’ll really be a fan of this book. So just go read it. It’ll take an hour.


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in April

book wall

Another month has come and gone, and with it more reading! As you know, I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In April, I read 8 books to completion, and started a couple of others that I almost finished (but not quite). Here’s what I read:

  1. The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael D. Watkins
  2. The Flash Vol. 5: Negative by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, et al.
  3. What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin Bergen (this one comes with a language warning in the strongest possible terms)
  4. Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee
  5. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath
  6. Superman Vol. 5: Hopes and Fears by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
  7. Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus by Michael Kelley
  8. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

I read The First 90 Days for the first time back in October of 2017, and was reading it again along with a few of my teammates at LifeWay. My second time around only confirmed my feelings on it. As for the rest, let’s get to it.

Books with pictures: Bats and bandages, a dark Flash, and a Super-family road trip

Batman: Hush is a fun story from the early 2000s that still holds up today, if you’re reading it for what it is: an action movie on paper. This story isn’t deep, but it did set up a lot of what’s still going today, including the resurrection of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Also, Jim Lee’s art is beautiful, especially when he plays around with watercolors. Sweet goodness…

The Flash being on the list reminded me that I’ve not been keeping my Goodreads up to date, at least as far as The Flash is concerned (I’ve actually read the other volumes in between the first and this one). WIlliamson’s ongoing story has been strong, if a bit slow-moving at times. I’ve been really glad to see the character treated well in this new run, especially since its one that is so easy to mess up.

Superman has a few lovely moments, but it’s mostly filler, both from a literal and figurative sense. A couple of the stories were written by the core team and are the standouts of the book: A multipart family road trip to see some key historical sites in America. Along the way, the Kent family discusses American values, religious liberty, compassion to veterans, and a number other hot-button topics. These elements are very well done (even if the interpretation of the famous “COEXIST” bumper sticker is novel), and it was refreshing to read a mainstream publication advocating for tolerance in the traditional and historic sense.

The power of words, the power of moments, growing in humility, and going full sci-fi nerd

What the F isn’t an edit on the title—that’s actually what it is. This is a book about swearing, which means it contains a lot of it. Therefore I don’t recommend it for many readers. But here’s why I read it and found it fascinating: it’s about the history of these words. How did the words that we consider “bad” gain that connotation, and why are such words not universally considered inappropriate? From that point of view, the book is intriguing, but like I said: there is a lot of swearing. So be forewarned if you choose to read or listen.

The Power of Moments contains significantly less profanity (although there is still some), and it is easier to recommend from that perspective alone. However, it’s the big idea of the book that is worthwhile: how do we create meaningful moments where people engage with us, whether from a marketing perspective or simply in human relationships, that matter? The book itself, like all the Heaths books, outlines the big idea in the first chapter or two and then spends the rest unpacking the concepts with examples, so the more efficiency-oriented among us will want to focus their energies there, but it’s an enjoyable read, and one I am considering how to best implement.

Growing Down is Michael Kelley’s latest, and one I might do a fuller review on at a later date. The central idea is that in order to become more Christlike, we need to become more childlike—that is, dependent. The book is thoughtful, engaging, easy-to-follow, and definitely one worth adding to your library as an aid to your efforts to disciple others.

Finally, The Long Earth is a just for fun read co-authored by Terry Pratchett. The book is built around the question of what happens when we discover that we’re not alone after all—but more specifically, not what if there are other forms of intelligent life, but what if there’s more than one earth? A multiverse, in fact, where every probability may have played itself out in the development of life.[1. This phrase, of course, being a clue that it is written with a naturalistic evolutionary worldview in mind.] The book is not ha-ha funny like Pratchett’s other works, but it is as equally imaginative. I’ve started the second book in the series, but I will say: it’s a one-and-done series.

 

 


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in March

book wall

Another month has come and gone, and with it more reading! As you know, I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In March, I read 12 books to completion, and started a couple of others. Here’s what I read:

  1. Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
  2. Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly
  3. John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas by Paul Schlehlein
  4. Herding Tigers: Master the Transition from Maker to Manager by Todd Henry
  5. Justice League, Vol. 5: Legacy by Bryan Hitch
  6. A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle
  7. Super Sons Vol. 2: Planet of the Capes by Peter J. Tomasi
  8. The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
  9. How to Ruin Your Life by Eric Geiger
  10. Ember Rising by S.D. Smith
  11. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  12. Action Comics: Superman-The Oz Effect by Dan Jurgens

Books with pictures: possible futures, retcons, and good, (mostly) clean fun

My graphic novel reads were probably the most fun I had reading this month. Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil is a modern all-ages (ish) retelling of the character’s origin story by Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone. It has a sweetness or brightness to it that fits the characters well. I would love to Smith do more with the character, but seeing as how this book is about 11 years old as it is, that’s not likely.

Justice League wraps up Bryan Hitch’s run on the title. The storytelling isn’t particularly mind-blowing, but it’s a popcorn film on paper: it’s big, loud and stuff blows up.

The Oz Effect resolves one of the big mysteries that has lingered since the before Rebirth officially kicked off—the identity of Mr. Oz.[1. Although it’s been months since it was revealed, I’m not going to say who it is.] The art is a bit all over the place with conflicting styles and the reveal doesn’t have quite the emotional heft that it should, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

Super Sons, though, like the Superman title co-authored by Peter Tomasi, is everything an all-ages superhero book should be: it’s fun, hopeful, well-written and features really solid art (although there’s one questionable fill-in artist). This collection sees Robin attempting to train Superboy, the lead characters be sucked into an alternate dimension, and reveals who even Batman is afraid of.

Memoirs, biographies, becoming a better leader, and ruining your life

John G. Paton is a fascinating read. Split into two parts, with one half being a biographical sketch and the other being devoted to practical takeaways gleaned from Paton’s life and ministry. I loved reading of the absolute confidence Paton had in the Lord, this certainty that he would not die until he had completed the work God had intended for him; and that allowed him to take great risks to fulfill the great commission. Definitely worth reading.

Endurance is a pretty incredible story as well. Scott Kelly spent a year on the International Space Station. The book itself is pretty matter-of-fact (Kelly is a no-frills storyteller), but it’s hard not to be inspired by his journey to the air force, then NASA and finally to spending a year on the International Space Station.

How to Ruin Your Life by Eric Geiger is the bossman’s latest. It’s an easy read in many ways, but it’s obviously one that wasn’t easy to write, with the impetus being Geiger seeing many people he cares deeply about shipwreck their ministries because of moral failings. This book is not a tell-all—if anything, he goes out of his way to avoid naming names and presenting any sort of identifying details (which is not a bad thing at all). Instead, it unpacks how isolation, boredom, and pride led to David’s adultery, and how leaders (and truthfully all of us) can recover after falling. Definitely worth reading.

A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle is a very necessary book. It’s a good primer on what culture is and means, and does something extremely helpful: instead of being a list of do’s and don’ts, this book encourages its reads to realign their perspective on each issue explored in light of the gospel. Sadly that’s all-too-rare in apologetics and cultural critiques like this.

Herding Tigers and Radical Candor are both excellent books for people learning to become better managers, especially of creative professionals. Over the last few months, I’ve been navigating this transition within my organization and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. What I took away from both is how important it is to communicate well in ways that make sense for your team (another example of situational leadership). That’s incredibly reductionistic I realize, but this is the standout element for me, at least on this first read. I’ll be going back to both again.

On the magically meh-tastic and epically entertaining

The Magic Misfits was just kind of… meh. The story was fine for the most part, although it’s a bit paint by numbers and filled with asides that are kind of distracting. There are some cute elements like having secret codes scattered throughout, and instructions on how to learn a few magic tricks, but it also has some subtle elements about different family configurations that may require parents to hit the pause button on sharing this book before having a necessary conversation.

On the other hand, Ember Rising, which apparently brings the Green Ember series to its close, is a contender for one of my favorite books of the year. There is literally nothing I can tell you about it that won’t ruin the book, so if you’re already reading SD Smith’s series and haven’t picked this up yet, do. If you’re not reading the series, get on it!


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

Deliver us from careless prayers

are my prayers too small?

Prayer is probably the area I struggle with most on a consistent basis. Not so much in not doing it (although there have been days), but in praying carelessly. Praying as though I were on autopilot instead of communing with the Father.

That’s something I was reminded of and convicted by as I read a new book on prayer by Albert Mohler. The other day, my review of this book went live over at The Gospel Coalition:

I remember one night coming home from work, completely exhausted, and joining my family to give thanks for our dinner. As I opened my mouth, I began to pray in a way that didn’t make sense: rather than thanking God for providing for our needs, I was asking him to help us sleep well (which I clearly needed to do). I’ve had moments like this when praying with my children; I’ve realized that while I’m saying something true, it’s exactly the same as what I prayed the previous seven nights. A general blessing repeated on autopilot rather than a heartfelt desire to connect with our Father.

To help us connect with God in this deeper way, Albert Mohler—president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and TGC Council member—has written The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution. He desires that all believers be deeply engaged in prayer and recognizes that we, just like the first followers of Jesus, must turn to Jesus to discover what that means. We need to learn to pray as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer. And to do that, we must discover what the Lord’s Prayer actually means.

Keep reading at The Gospel Coalition.

What I read in February

book wall

Another month has come and gone, and with it more reading! As you know, I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In February, I read 9 books to completion, read one of those twice, and started a couple of others that I managed to get halfway through. So call it 10, I suppose. Here’s what I read:

  1. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Volume 4: Fracture by Robert Venditti
  2. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
  3. Profitable Growth Is Everyone’s Business: 10 Tools You Can Use Monday Morning by Ram Charan
  4. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
  5. The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (twice)
  6. Aquaman Vol. 4: Underworld by Dan Abnett
  7. 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke
  8. The Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver
  9. Seven to Eternity, Vol. 1: The God of Whispers by Rick Remender and Jerome Opeña

The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down is one I read for review purposes (look for that to be published soon), so I won’t say anything about it here.

Books with pictures: underwater and out in space

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps volume 4 continues the strong storytelling of the previous volumes, and brought the partnership between the Green and Yellow Lanterns to a screeching halt. I am curious to see where this title goes from here. Similarly Aquaman introduces a new status quo for the character, as Dan Abnett moves to the next stage of the story he’s been telling since he took over the title, continuing the evolution of the character from the stereotype of “the guy who talks to fish,” without going too grimdark.

The Flash Rebirth was the book that brought Barry Allen back to the role of DC’s primary speedster about 10 years ago, after having been killed off in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. I didn’t have much affection for the character until the recent New 52 series and later the Rebirth era run, but Johns’ love of the character is infectious.

Seven to Eternity is one I decided to pick up for a change of pace. It’s definitely not a superhero book, although certainly the characters are super-human-ish. The concept of the book is intriguing, as its protagonists seek to rid their world of its oppressive ruler (a creature who offers your hearts desire).

A true-ish memoir, technology, and the new morality

Moonglow was a weird book. Written as a true-ish account of his grandfather’s life based on conversations during the final days of his life, Chabon weaves a compelling tale… but also one that is decidedly creepy in places. There’s a good deal of content worth skipping over (notably of a sexual nature) that does nothing to move the narrative forward. There are some moments of brilliance, but this is the first of Chabon’s books I’ve read that I kind of wished I’d not. (Which is why I’m not linking to it, either.)

Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business is a work read, and I’ll be honest: I had a hard time with it in some ways. It’s got concepts throughout that are familiar in many other business books (including Good to Great and The Four Disciplines of Execution) but it seemed a little thin. Maybe it’s because I’ve read a ton of books like it at this point, I don’t know. If you’ve never read it, it’s got some helpful material. But it probably could have been an article.

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You has been on my reading list for a long time, but I never got around to it until now. Reinke does a solid job of addressing both the positives and the negatives of our ability to always be connected—that our phones offer great opportunities for gospel ministry, even as they represent a danger to us if we allow an “always on” mentality to rob us of what’s most important. Out of this book and another helpful conversation, I’ve started making some significant changes to how I use my phone, though, so that’s a good thing.

Finally, there’s 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. Peterson has become something of a rockstar among social conservatives (which is fascinating since he’s not a social conservative). What makes Peterson worth reading is his astoundingly high-view of morality (he has an entire chapter on telling the truth—or at least not lying) combined with his willingness to not go-along to get-along on some of the significant issues of the day (specifically undercutting virtually all the arguments made about transgenderism). He also shows great reverence for the Bible, even if he clearly lacks an understanding of what it actually means. I’ve heard this book described as the secular “Mere Christianity,” and if there ever were a book to warrant such a description, it’d be this one. Definitely worth a look, especially for ethicists and pastors.


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in January

book wall

I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In January, I read 9 titles to completion, and started several others that I have yet to complete. Here’s what I read:

I covered Spiritual Leadership earlier in January, in a post sharing several of my favorite quotes from the book, so I’ll leave that one at that. Here are my thoughts on the rest.

Books with pictures: wars, rumors of wars, and light shows

Justice League volumes 7 and 8 make up the core of the Darkseid War storyline that concluded Geoff Johns’ run on the title before the big Rebirth storyline kicked off. My goodness these are fun reads, the kind of big, don’t think too hard kind of stories that make make for great relaxation reading. Also, Jason Fabok (a fellow Canadian) is a mind-bogglingly good artist. Sweet goodness, his stuff is beautiful.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps volumes 2 and 3 were enjoyable reads exploring a big status quo shake-up (what if the Green and Yellow Lanterns—bitter enemies—actually teamed up?). Despite Hal Jordan’s name being in the title, the character doesn’t dominate any of these volumes, which is also nice. The series has a big cast, and it’s great to see that several are getting the spotlight.

Memoirs, humility, big data and punctuation

The remainder of my reading for this month was… eclectic to say the least. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is the best book on punctuation that you’re probably never going to read (but should). Truss dives into the history behind the marks we use so frequently, and frequently incorrectly, with many laugh-out-loud funny moments in every chapter. Once you read this, you’ll “never” use quote marks incorrectly again.[1. See what I did there?]

Nevertheless caught me by surprise, especially in its portrayal of Alec Baldwin’s insecurities and his views on divorce, which he calls child abuse (particularly the act of putting a child in the middle of it). It was a book that left me thinking, unsure if I actually liked it, but glad I actually read it all the same.

I almost didn’t finish Everybody Lies. The subject matter is interesting—the relationship between what we say on surveys and tell other people vs what we tell Google in our searches reveals that we’re all big fat liars about just about everything. Many of the examples the author uses are helpful, but he tends to spend too much time—way too much time—on people’s searches related to pornography. There was a lot of skipping that had to be done as a result (I don’t need to hear a seemingly endless string of profane search keywords to get the point). From a marketing perspective, it raises a lot of questions about the validity of survey data (in that it’s likely not trustworthy at all), but I’m sure there’s probably a TED Talk on the subject that you could watch instead of bothering with the book.

Finally, Humble Roots is a book I wish I’d read long ago. Hannah Anderson is a talented writer dealing with a subject that most of us have no business writing on (which is kind of the point). But where other writers might fail, she succeeds with a work that feels more like you’re sitting down for a chat over coffee than reading (or in my case, listening) a book. One note about the audio edition: the narrator continually butchers the pronunciation of “theologians,” and it will drive you mad.


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in:

What I read in December

book wall

I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.

In December, I read 12 unique titles to completion, read one of those twice, and started several others that I have yet to complete. Here’s what I read:

  1. Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
  2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  3. Superman Vol. 4: Black Dawn by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
  4. Leading Change by John P. Kotter (twice)
  5. Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ by Russ Ramsey
  6. Green Lanterns, Volume 1: Rage Planet by Sam Humphries
  7. Green Lanterns, Volume 2: The Phantom Lantern by Sam Humphries
  8. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Volume 2: Source Code by Julie and Shawna Benson
  9. Batman Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles by Tom King
  10. A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner
  11. The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent by Scott James
  12. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Leadership and Pop Memoirs

Leading Change is probably one of the most helpful business books I’ve read in the last year. So much so that I read it twice in one month. The framework Kotter offers is on-point, and one I’ve seen actually being used to great effectiveness.

The Princess Diarist reminded me why Carrie Fisher became so well known as a Script Doctor in Hollywood post-Star Wars. She was a brilliant writer and extremely witty. But this book isn’t quite what you’d expect. It’s less a memoir of making Star Wars, and more a reflection on Fisher’s insecurities as a young woman making a low-budget sci-fi film in 1976, especially in relation to her relationship with co-star Harrison Ford. I wouldn’t say that I recommend this book, but it was fascinating.

Holiday reading

Five books on the list all had some connection to Christmas, which I found kind of funny. Mr. Dickens and His Carol a neat idea that more or less worked in its execution: to tell the tale of Dickens writing A Christmas Carol by paralleling A Christmas Carol. It was a neat idea, and was executed fairly well. I don’t know that I would read it again, but it was an entertaining book. A Christmas Carol, naturally is its superior in every way, but that’s to be expected, because, well… Behold the Lamb of God and The Expected One have become favorites of mine and my family after the second go-around with each book. I’m already looking forward to reading both of these again next year. A Die Hard Christmas is another one of those “I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone” books, but it was a lot of fun to read the story of one of Emily’s and my favorite movies (and one less violent than Home Alone). Definitely not for kids, and definitely not for everyone. But if you are a fan of the movie, you’ll probably enjoy this a lot.

Reading on my holidays

Finally, because I took some time off during the holidays, I read a lot comic books because I can. Sam Humphries has done a great job on Green Lanterns, establishing the new Earth-based Lanterns. Volume one was a bit by-the-numbers, but volume two was terrific. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey vol 2 is a really enjoyable team-up book and one I was glad to share with my eldest child (nothing super-sketchy, lovely art, and a good story). Superman Vol. 4 and Batman Vol. 4 are two solid entries in two of the best series to come out of the Rebirth initiative at DC. Tomasi and Gleason’s take on Superman really is the best the character’s been treated in well over a decade. King’s Batman is the most human he’s been in ages as well. Well worth reading if you’re a Batman fan.


That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!

Here’s a look at what I read in: