Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The FAQs Continued Continued

Based off some of the feedback I've gotten over the past few years, I'm answering some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about this site. FAQ One, "Why Looking Through the Windshield," can be found here. FAQ Two, "Why Chase the Kangaroo," can be found here. Now, read below for FAQ Three...



For some reason, people think I’m a writer. I guess if forced between the choice of calling me a writer as opposed to a semi-professional cataloger of the migratory patterns of sea turtles, then I’m a writer.

As such, people tend to ask those who write whom they the writers have read and appreciated. So, in no particular order, here are the books which if I were to be stranded on a deserted island I’d like to have with me, and why:

10. CATCHER IN THE RYE: If you want to know how to make a teenager or pre-teen read, tell them there’s a book they can’t or shouldn’t read. I was first introduced to the “Banned Books List” in the ninth grade, and I took it as a personal challenge to turn it into a checklist of books I should read. While my motivation to read this book may not have stemmed from the most noble of ideals, JD Salinger’s most well-known tome did strike a chord in me like few other books have. I used to re-read it every summer, beginning with my senior year of high school and running through 2007.

9. BLUE LIKE JAZZ: Donald Miller’s series of interconnected personal essays was the first book about life and faith I had ever read that didn’t seem formulaic, like it was written to be a best-seller, or shallow and trite. I felt like I was actually getting into his head and life…and I was surprised at how many ways I found myself staring back at myself in his writings. He also made me think that maybe I could have a shot at writing and people might read it. I also would love to just grab a cup of coffee with him someday and just see what conversations spring up organically between us.

8. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: Epic. Deep. Layered. Allegorical. And a litmus test for those who saw the movies and thought it might be “kewl” to read the source material. I’d love to know how many copies of the three books were sold to individuals who made it about a quarter of the way through the first book, wonder who the crap Tom Bombadil was, and gave up, placing the books on their bookshelf so that visitors might think they’re well-read.

7. FARENHEIT 451: Ray Bradbury wrote this book for me. Yes, yes, yes – I know he wrote it as a partial critique of television, but come on. It speaks on so many levels, especially to a young boy growing up in the Deep South, whose thoughts and worldviews were often contrary to the popular ideas and social morays of his environment...

6. THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL: I’m not quite sure what inspired me to pick up Brennan Manning’s book. Maybe it was the title (and I was curious how Rich Mullins toed into it). Maybe it was the convergence of about six other books I was reading at the time. Maybe it was just that I needed to read a book that gave me real-life language and examples that told me that no matter what I had done or how hard I had fallen, I wasn’t beyond the reach of grace. This book also inspired both the first time I ever spoke in a church (Mosaic – see this way older post for the sermon notes, or just go read Isaiah 61) and when I spoke at my dad’s funeral. It – along with BLUE LIKE JAZZ and VELVET ELVIS – is one of the few books I know that I have given away multiple copies of.

5. STARMAN: James Robinson’s seminal tome on superheroes. – which is really funny, because it’s the most antithetical superhero book I know of. As opposed to the continuing stories of Superman, Batman and the like – which will be published as long as the medium exists – Starman is a close-ended generational epic, currently being collected in six oversized and very thick editions, and it will tell the complete story of Jack Knight: the coming of age story of a man who fights against his family and heritage, eventually embraces his calling and comes to peace with himself, the journeys that his life takes him on, the eventual reconciliation (of sorts) with his father, and how he decides the most important thing in the world to him is not being what others want/make him out to be, but instead to simply be a father to his son. Yep. Absolutely no parallels to me at all.

4. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: As a Southerner, and as a writer, I am contractually obligated to love this book. Thankfully, my love of it comes honestly and not out of false sense of duty. Plus, after reading it, the phrase “bust up this chiffarobe” entered my lexicon and hasn’t left it since, much to the chagrin of my wife.

3. THE ARTIST’S WAY: Read it. Do what it tells you to do. If you have ever felt any inkling of creativity or you “used to be artsy” and have let your spirit atrophy…get this book. I think I got this as a gift back in 1995 from a dear friend of mine, and it “forced” me to think, re-think, and re-evaluate both my life and my abilities. I’m not using hyperbole when I say that probably next to the Bible, no other book I have ever read has shaped me, shaken me, and made me who I am today. One day, I need to thank Julia Cameron for writing this.

2. VELVET ELVIS: Rob Bell’s widely read (and criticized) book on faith and spirituality will either make you want to move to Grand Rapids to hear this guy speak in person or make you want to write a critical response to it. There is no middle ground. For me, if Rob decided he wanted to sell photocopies of his grocery list, I’d buy them. I clearly side on the side of those who agree with about 96% of what he has to say. The remaining percentage is just “out there” and radical enough that it sparks me to re-evaluate what I believe and why. Plus, it’s given me some good ammo for deep conversations.

1. THE NEXT BOOK I HAVEN’T READ YET: No, that’s not the actual title of a book. I know that out there is some other book that will make me stop and have a full-on Bill and Ted “whoa” moment. Yes, I could have added in a few more books that kind of made me stop and think (The Grapes of Wrath; Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline; Mike Yaconelli’s Messy Spirituality; Jim Palmer’s Divine Nobodies), but I prefer to leave this spot blank for now.

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