What I read in February

Reading is a big part of my life. Whether it’s with physical books, digital books or audiobooks, I am almost always reading something (or multiple somethings). For the last 14 months, I’ve been sharing a breakdown of everything I read each month, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gave 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.

Which brings us to February. Over the course of the month, I read 11 books to completion, abandoned one, and more still that I started but have yet to complete:

  1. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
  2. Ember Falls by S.D. Smith
  3. Superman, Volume 1: Son of Superman by Peter J. Tomasi and Pat Gleason
  4. The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith
  5. Nightwing, Volume 1: Better Than Batman by Tim Seeley
  6. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  7. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney
  8. The Sheriff of Babylon, Volume 1: Bang. Bang. Bang. by Tom King
  9. Batman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham by Tom King and David Finch
  10. The Pentateuch: ESV Reader’s Bible, Volume I
  11. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
  12. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

Rabbits with swords! Also, poetry featuring cats.

I didn’t expect when I chose to read some TS Eliot, I’d be a series of poems about cats. Yep, cats. But this was a great starting point because Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is pure silliness.

We bought The Green Ember for my oldest daughter back in September. She read it in about a day, and then read it another five times. Then she started telling me I needed to read it, too. It took me a while, but I finally got around to it. The Green Ember is a terrific series opener, one that hooks you and leaves you excited to read the next volume. Reminiscent of  The Lord of the Rings and 100 Cupboards in terms of the sense of entering a world with history. Smith doesn’t spend much time building the world—he places us in it and gives us hints along the way. This pattern continues in Ember Falls, which ups the stakes (as all good sequels do), but doesn’t fall into the trap a book in the middle of a cycle typically does: it still feels like a complete story. Smith also gives readers a glimpse into the larger history of this world with The Black Star of Kingston, and it’s fantastic. Who’d have thought rabbits with swords could be gripping?

Leading with vision and effectively meeting your goals

I’m reading a lot of marketing material right now. Most of it blogs and magazine articles, but a few books, too. Most recently, it’s been Start With Why by Simon Sinek and The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and several others. Sinek’s book is great conceptually, but you get the entirety of it within the first chapter. So skip it, watch the Ted Talk upon which it is based, or just remember, if you want to entice people effectively, it’s going to be with vision (the why behind what you do) not focusing on the features and benefits of a product. The 4 Disciplines of Execution offers a simple and practical means of determining and measuring what is most important. Our organization uses it on almost everything, and it is tremendously beneficial. The outline of the process is brilliant; the book itself could have been stronger if it were 150 pages.

Superheroes and the CIA

DC Comics’ Rebirth event launched almost a year ago, and the first storylines are now being released in collected editions, which has me pretty excited. First, there’s Superman, Volume 1: Son of Superman. On this, all I can say is, my goodness is it ever refreshing to read a great Superman story again. Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason make the character shine as they focus on him in a new role: Dad.

Batman: I Am Gotham doesn’t reinvent the wheel, with Tom King more or less picking up where Scott Snyder left off. The sense I get from King is that he’s a writer who needs time to figure out his way. Grayson had a bit of a shaky start, but by the end was pretty stellar. Batman has a similar issue, but there’s a lot to keep a reader engaged. Nightwing picks up where Grayson left off, bringing the character back to his superhero identity while adding some intriguing wrinkles to Dick Grayson’s background.

Finally, there’s Tom King’s Sheriff of Babylon. Based in part on King’s experiences in Iraq as a CIA Analyst, the story itself is extremely compelling. However, many readers may be uncomfortable with the language, violence, and other issues. This is most definitely a book that is for adults, but I’m not sure I need to read the second volume.

Serious science, silly questions and the first five books of the Bible

It’s been said by some that if The Screwtape Letters were half as clever and half as long, it would be a magnificent book instead of a merely good one. There’s a degree to which I feel that way about Randall Munroe’s What If?. It’s clever and interesting… but the cleverness or novelty of the book ends at about page 50. The book keeps going for significantly longer. I love the idea of answering silly questions with real science, I couldn’t maintain my enthusiasm until the end of the book.

Last but not least is the first volume in the ESV Readers’ Set: The Pentateuch. I’ve mentioned before that I love the format of these books, and that’s still true. While this edition has the unfortunate rendering of Genesis 3:16 included (one that I’m thankful the CSB does not follow), I found it fairly easy to get through a significant portion of the Scriptures in a relatively short period of time, and have already moved on to the historical books. A consistent reader using this format should be able to complete a reading of the Bible within a few months.

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:

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.

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