If wishes were horses, beggars could go to Denver Seminary. Alas, my horsiest wishes have not given me a wallet of fat cash to go back to school at the moment, but if I could, I would love to take classes on Christ and culture, philosophy, apologetics, and theology. I’d take classes on Christianity and the arts, poetry, worldview, the Inklings. In point of fact, I have listened to master’s level classes while I do the dishes, free classes provided by Gordon Conwell or lectures on Youtube. Ryan Reeves has posted a wealth of material, entire courses on Lewis and Tolkien, Reformation history, and historical theology, enough intellectual stimulation to make the chores fly. But as I watch my husband buckle down and tackle a Ph.D., I’m amazed at his tenacity, his focus. Without the accountability, I’d never make myself read the challenging stuff, the brain-stretchers.
Why not? Why can’t I make a decision, flip a switch, go to the library? Well, I know me. I know how I battle laziness and perpetual distraction. I know how deadlines and threats motivate me in a way lofty dreams never seem to do. But I also know that it’s silly on some level, childish, really, to wait to fork over vast sums of money to study books that are available largely for free.
One of the great wonders of the internet is the availability of other people’s must-read, must-see, must-do bucket lists. You can hop on Goodreads and find out what your mentors want to read. You can peek at Tim Challies’s book reading resolutions, the syllabus of any class at any school. What a treasure! A Do-It-Yourself degree! Well, maybe not quite. But a good place to start.
Here’s my thought: even though I never quite accomplish all the things I hope to do, all of the goal-setting and dreaming has a way of changing me. It’s like those prayers that God never answers in the way I want — the act of praying still changes my heart. Thinking through what I want to read, what I want to learn, has a way of raising my sights. Even if I get through only half of what I hope to do, that’s still a lot more progress than I’d make watching Gilmore Girl re-runs on Netflix.
As Challies has pointed out, lots of fantastic books (usually current bestsellers and classics) are available in audio format, and I can usually find a good audio book to download from my local library. While I was thinking through my Thinking Christianly gotta-read list, I chose the first one I found available for download to start with. I’m halfway through Tim Keller’s Reason for God, taking it up whenever I’m in the car or scrubbing pots. I doubt very many of my theologically-heavy books will be possible to find that way, but the good news is that most of my just-for-fun books are. That means I can listen to novels while I sort laundry and save the seminary stuff for actual feet-up-in-the-evening paper book reading or morning quiet times.
So here’s the beginning of my list — we’ll call it Year One. I’ll aim for about a book and a half per month. I’ll never finish! But that’s no reason not to start. I tried to balance old and new, exciting and daunting, theological (by which I mean theology in the academic sense — what do I really believe about the person of God) and cultural.
- Reason for God, Tim Keller
- Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon
- Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves
- Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson
- How Should We Then Live?, Francis Schaeffer
- Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper
- Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr
- Christ and Culture Revisited, D. A. Carson
- This Day, Wendell Berry
- Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Mind of the Maker, Dorothy Sayers
- The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis
- Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness
- The Only Wise God, William Lane Craig
- Wisdom and Wonder, Abraham Kuyper
- Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor
- Valley of Vision
- Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
What’s on your list?