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2024

Hit the Bike Trail - Alice Sankey
  • Another book I read to the kids. I didn’t like the part where the kids get in the car with a friendly stranger with no negative consequences.
The Biblical Cosmos: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Weird and Wonderful World of the Bible - Robin Parry
  • A fascinating book about the worldview of people groups from biblical times. This book effectively demonstrates how understanding this worldview is crucial to understanding the text.
Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
  • This is one I read to my kids. I remembered a lot of the story from my childhood, but I was struck by how well-written this book is reading it as an adult. My kids loved it too.
Great German Short Novels and Stories - Various
  • Before I travel to a country, I love absorbing myslef in the literature of authors from that place. I didn’t finish this book, but I at least read the essential von Goethe and 5 or 6 other short stories.
Culture Shock! Germay: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette - Richard Lord
  • I picked up this book in preparation for a trip to Germany in the summer. I was a little hesitant on reading a book about German culture written by a non-academic, but it was the only book about modern Germany that I could find at the library. I loved it though and had a hard time putting it down. I learned many things about Germany culture that I wasn’t expecteing. Honestly the perspective of a non-academic was a bit refershing.
Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large Scale World - Ross Chapin
  • This book shows how to build communities of relatively dense (10-12 units per acre) of (mostly) detached single family homes. It was written by an architect, so it was visually driven which was a nice change compared to what I usually read.
From Oslo to Iraq and the Roadmap: Essays - Edward Said
  • I read this to understand the conflict between Israel and Palestine better, but I’m honestly not sure this was the best book for that. Said is a fascinating scholar, and there are several great chapters in here. I also loved the foreword and afterword sections. All that said, the book did get a bit repetitive, but I that’s to be expected given that these were short essays written about current events.
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One step at a Time - Jeff Speck
  • I’m really kicking myself for not reading this sooner. I learned a lot, and Speck paints a more nuanced and complex picture of walkability than I was expecting. Great read, especially for students interested in urban geography and planning.

2023

The Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition - D. A. Carson
  • This book took me quite a long time to get through, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While I didn’t have any worldview-altering takeaways from the book, there were many small nuggets pointed out by Carson that help me in better understanding the teachings of Jesus.
To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima - Charles Pellegrino
  • An otherwordly book. Admittedly, it was difficult to keep track of the many characters in this book, but their stories are incredible. This book looks at the atomic bomb attacks from the perspective of the survivors (mostly), with a focus on the double survivors, i.e., those who took the train from Hiroshima to Nagasaki after the first attack.
The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters - Tom Nichols
  • This book was not what I expected. There were some great nuggets in here, but I disagreed with far more than I was expecting, and some of the book’s content was just incorect. This is humorous given that the author decries misinformation and warns of the dangers of experts in one field proclaiming expertise in a tangential one (which is exactly what the book is). For instance, he uses Frank Abignale Jr. as an example of workplace fraud, when in reality, much of Abignale’s story has recently been called into question. Nichols also blames the rising cost of univeristy education on lazy rivers and expensive dorms, when this has been shown to be empirically wrong. Further, there are other instances where Nichols seemingly contradicts himself. Early in the book he suggests that far too many US high school students go to college, and that more should go into the trades (this is a proposition I’d be willing to entertain). But later in the book he bemoans the average citizen’s education level and willingness to be informed. You cannot sell the cow and still drink the milk. All that said, he makes some good points about the loss of respect for educators and authority figures in general, and he really hammers home the Dunning-Krueger effect, which I appreciated.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith - Jon Krakauer
  • What a gripping read. I started this on vacation in Dauphin Island, Alabama and could hardly put it down. There’s a ton about American/Mormon history that I had no idea existed until reading this. Some of the characters become tough to keep track of toward the end and I really wish there was more about how the aftermath affected Allen Laferty, but these are minor critiques.
How to Find a Habitable Planet - James Kasting
  • This book was far more technical than I was anticipating (written by a NASA climatologist), so much so that I put it down for a few months and read other things. After the third major smoke episode resulting from Canadian fires, I decided to pick this up again. I enjoyed it, though I think a more appropriate title would be ‘What makes a planet habitable’ or something similar as only the last couple chapters are dedicated to techniques for finding habitable planets.
Finding Gobi - Dion Leonard and Craig Borlase
  • My wife started reading this book to our older kids here and there, and I took over about a third of the way through. It was a little difficult for them to follow at 6 and 4 years old.
Protecting the Innonence of Childhood - Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo
  • This was ok. There are some hyper-theoies of causality in here that I didn’t like along with persistent bashing of political correctness (I know have idea how they actually define it), but also some useful nuggets here and there.
White Noise - Don DeLillo
  • This was a confusing book, but I loved the setting and characters. At times I was laughing hard out loud reading this. A literal LOL, if you will.
The Year of the Hare - Arto Paasilinna
  • I loved this book. Most of it takes place in the Finnish wilderness; I feel that I learned a lot about Finland through reading this.
The Summer Book - Tove Jansson
  • I didn’t love this as much as other reviewers have, but the setting (on an Island in the Gulf of Finland) is unique.
Finnish Short Stories - Various
  • Another book that I didn’t finish. This is a compilation of short stories by some of Finland’s most famous authors.
Kalevala - Elias Lönnrot
  • I decided to read portions of this in preparation for travelling to Finalnd. I only read a few poems but was intrigued by how completely different this book is from other things that I read.
The Silence - Don DeLillo
  • I picked up this short book to read while I was waiting for DeLillo’s more popular White Noise to arrive through interlibrary loan.
The Wind-Up Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
  • This book was quite a bit longer than what I usually would even attempt to read, but it was compelling. The story is set in 1970s Tokyo, and I knew so very little about Japan prior to reading this (aside from some basic demographic and economic characteristics). You really get a sense of a mysticism and interconnectedness in Japanese culture, despite it being a largely secular society. I was also shocked to observe how westernized Japan was, even in the 1970s (at least from the way it was depicted). I also learned a good deal about Manchuria and Japan’s strained relationship with the Soviet Union.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  • A masterpiece. As Neil Postman suggests in his forward to Amusing Ourselves to Death, If we’re living in a dystopian future, it’s not Nineteen Eighty Four’s; it’s Huxley’s.
When Everyone Leads The Toughest Challenges Get Seen and Solved - Ed O’Malley and Julia Fabris McBride
  • I read this as a part of the Dean’s book club. Overall it was great and easy to read. It has an unconvential take on leadership. According to the authors, leadership is not a position; it’s an activity.
Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq - Steven Kinzer
  • This book was hard to put down but remarkably depressing at the same time. Amazing (or not) how most Americans (including myself prior to reading this book) have no idea how invovled the US government has been in overthrowing the governments of Hawaii, the Phillipines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaraugua, Iran, Vietnam, and many others.

2022

Thinking in Systems: A Primer - Donnella Meadows
  • This was a little more technical than I was hoping, and as such I didn’t finish it. The implications of this book, however, for natural resource management, the global economy, and other issues I teach about in my Human Geography class is really useful.
What Saint Paul Really Said - N.T. Wright
  • There were parts of this book I really liked, but on the whole, I really didn’t grasp it well. Admittedly, I didn’t finish it either. That said, I really love Wright’s candid, down-to-earth writing style, and I want to read more of his books.
The End of Policing - Alex Vitale
  • I read this to understand the alternatives to the current system of policing in the US. I was surprised to find nothing controversial in this book. The TLDR is that policing is extremely expensive, and its use toward societal goals is often misguided. There are often better and cheaper ways to achieve these goals.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing
  • A gripping story of survival
Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandries - Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • I loved the short chapter format of this book as someone with no knowledge of astrophysics
Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas - David Banis and Hunter Shobe
  • I used this book as a text for my Geography Field Seminar in class, and I loved the content, format, and style.
Breakfast of Champions or Goodbye Blue Monday - Kurt Vonnegut
  • One of my all-time favorite fiction books. Themes of environmentalism, non-violence, free will, and absurdism.
Cat’s Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Not my favorite Vonneget book but still worth reading.
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  • This was not what I was expecting but I enjoyed it.

2021

1984 - George Orwell
  • This book really shook me up. A depressing read for sure; his non-fiction book Homage to Catalonia is required reading before this one.
Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, food aid, fraud, and drug trafficking - Timothy Schwartz
  • Most mind-bending read of all time.
A confederacy of dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  • A great description of New Orleans through fiction.
Early Retirement Extreme - Jacob Lund Fisker
  • Surprisingly technical and resourceful read.
We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda - Phillip Gourevitch
  • A depressing but incredibly important book.
Dune - Frank Herbert
  • I understand this better after watching the movie.
There’s no such thing as bad weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) - Linda Åkeson McGurk
  • This book has had a major impact on my parenting. Kids need to be outside, get dirty, fall down, and brave the elements.
Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of Show Business - Neil Postman
  • One of my favorite books of all time. A must read.
The scandal of the evangelical mind - Mark Noll
  • A bit heavier than I expected but some great history of the war on intellectualism in the church.
Chasing new horizons: Inside the first epic mission to Pluto - Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
  • A fascinating read on an incredible scientific project.
Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
  • A refreshingly different take on science fiction.
The two cultures and the scientific revolution - C.P. Snow
  • Meh. More about the inudstrial revolution than the scientific revolution, but in his defense this was written before the academic scientific revolution.

2020

Metamorphasis - Franz Kafka
  • The weirdest book I’ve ever read.
Krakatoa: The day the world exploded - Simon Winchester
  • Awesome book about the history of plate tectonics and the loudest event in recorded human history.
The old man and the sea - Ernest Hemingway
  • A classic.
Rest: Why you get more done when you work less - Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
  • A near life changing book for me. Confirmed many things about the nature of work that I was suspecting but learned through trial and error.
Bullshit jobs: A theory - David Graeber
  • One of my all-time favorites. Perhaps the second most mind-bending read of my life.
Jesus for President: Politics for ordinary radicals - Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
  • One of the most important books about Christianity I’ve ever read. Gives me hope for the faith.
Myth of a Christian nation: Why the quest for political power is destroying the church - Greg Boyd
  • Not as juicy as I was hoping, but many good points in here nonetheless.
The fall of the faculty: The rise of the all administrative university and why it matters - Benjamin Ginsberg
  • A must-read for new faculty members wanting to understand the incomprehensible administrative landscape of universities.
Arguing with zombies: Economics, politics, and the fight for a better future - Paul Krugman
  • I was expecting an academic book rather than a popular book.
Economic facts and fallacies - Thomas Sowell
  • Meh.
Subversion of Christianity - Jacques Ellul
  • A bit too theory heavy for me but a refreshing perspective nonetheless