The Book Shelf

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Reading has always been one of my favorite activities, and I love talking about books, browsing through other people’s books, and hearing about books that others have read.  This page is a place where I hope that you and I can share all of these things together!

2014 Books


 Man of God
Charles Stanley

Impressions:  Incredible book about being a complete man of God.  I thought it was amazingly thorough.  Some of it was pretty basic stuff, so I found myself a little impatient at times.  However, he had a lot of quotable nuggets of truth, and I will definitely add the hard copy to my Christmas list.


Equipping 101
John Maxwell

John Maxwell is THE leadership guru, and he put these books together to give a snapshot of a variety of topics:  Leadership, Mentoring, Attitude, Equipping, Relationships, etc.  They are a good, quick read.  I started to compile good quotes from them, but nearly every sentence is a good quote!  This is a good way to cover a lot of good topics in a short time.  The only downside to the books is that there was some overlap between them, so you heard some of the material more than once.


Greek Legacy
Timothy Shutt

Impressions:  Really interesting discussion about the Greek life and culture.  I’ve often heard people compare America’s rise and decline to the Rise and Fall of Rome.  I think that our society is on target to be like the Greeks.  (Not a good thing.)  I really enjoyed learning about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.  My favorite thing I learned from them (S/P/A) is that all humans are equipped with an internal understanding of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.  He goes on to argue that these three are synonymous.  And if you think about it, truth is beautiful and good, and the good is beautiful and true, and authentic beauty is true and good.  And ultimately, God is the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness.  I really believe that God was preparing the world for the truth of His Son with these Greek philosophers, both with their logical thought processes and with their concepts.


Killing Kennedy
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

This was a good book that covers America in the 1960’s.  It gives some background about JFK, and goes into his personal life, strengths, and weaknesses.  I started the book with a pretty low opinion of him, due to his wavering over the Bay of Pigs and his well-publicized moral failings.  Those opinions were reinforced as I learned the ugly details, but I also gained more respect for the challenges that he faced and the way that he tried to learn from his mistakes.  The book also delves into Lee Harvey Oswald’s life and struggles.  It was interesting to learn more about the reasons that he did what he did.  O’Reilly makes some conjectures about what may have been going on in his head, which I enjoy – there are a lot of moral lessons to be learned from his misguided life.The book was written and read like an O’Reilly news program…straightforward and to the point.  In general this is what I like, but sometimes it literally felt like he was reading his list of talking points to me.


Killing Lincoln 
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

I grew up in the Land of Lincoln, so I have read and own lots of Lincoln biographies.  Even so, I learned a lot of really interesting information from this book.  For instance, did you know that John Wilkes Booth was part of a ring of assassins who intended to kill other members of the administration and cabinet?  I did not.  O’Reilly likes to point out the similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy, and I recommend that you read them one after the other.  (Whichever order you prefer.)  I liked the way that the book brought the human characters to life, both the hero and the villains.


John Quincy Adams
Harlow Giles Unger

I have the goal to read a biography of every American President.  My plan is to read as many of them in order as possible, so that I can get a sense of the flow of history from one to the next.  I have completed George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  (The library doesn’t have James Monroe on audiobook, yet.)  This brings me to John Quincy Adams.  I have to admit that I am very biased towards JQA – I feel a deep respect and connection to John and Abigail Adams and their son.  They were people of strong Christian faith, deep commitment to each other, and strong love of their country.  John and Abigail cultivated JQA to be the President.  He had an incredible life; he was an ambassador at the age of 14, at which point he was fluent in a variety of languages.  The letters he wrote home to his mother exhibited the maturity and intelligence of a man 4 times his age.  He is a good reminder to me of how low we set the expectations of ‘teenagers’ these days, compared to his day.  (Aside: there was no such thing as ‘adolescence’ in those days – you were a child, and then you were a man.  No interim period of selfishness and laziness and immaturity.  Parents raised their children to be contributing members of society and held them accountable to do so.  Soapbox thus ended.)  The JQA biography was interesting, because it showed me that John and Abigail were not perfect parents, and particularly that their perfectionism and astonishingly high standards exacted a toll on their children.  How could you ever live up to John Adams as your father?!?  It was also interesting for me to learn how successful JQA was as an ambassador, and how badly he failed as a president.  After losing his reelection bid he hoped to leave politics, but was convinced to be elected to Congress.  He spent his final years on a crusade to end slavery in America.  I admire his grit and determination, and the wily tactics that he employed to fight the evil institution of slavery.  I see parallels to our modern quest to end abortion, which will require just as much grit, determination, and cunning.   All in all, JQA, like his father, poured out his life from beginning to end in service of his country.  Neither was perfect, and I’m sure I would not have agreed with every political decision he made, but we owe John and John Quincy quite a debt for the country that they helped to create!


Revolutionary Summer
Joseph Ellis

This book covers the beginning phases of the Revolutionary War in the year 1776.  The author’s stated purpose is to cover both the military side and the political/legislative side, and to explore how those two worlds interacted (and interfered) with each other.  It mainly focuses on Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  Other interesting things I learned:  Some of the highest ranking British generals were holding out hope that they could convince the Americans to peaceably end the war.  This author makes the case that the British generals’ initial hesitations led to the Americans escaping from sure defeat.  He also highlights General Washington’s various blunders and bad strategies.  (It’s popular to point out flaws in great leaders nowadays.)  It is a good reminder that we are all human.  He introduces the concept that if our elected officials emphasize virtue over self-centered interests, the country will benefit.  But it is much easier to focus on what is in your best interest, rather than what is most virtuous.  Good quote:  “If you know how the journey is going to end then you can afford to be patient along the path.”

It was interesting to see how the basic areas of argument were already laid out, even at that early stage in our history:

  • States’ rights versus federal rights
  • Slavery
  • Proportional representation
  • Big states versus little states
  • Agricultural versus industrial
  • Federal government’s power


A Short History of the 20th Century
John Lukacs

I wouldn’t say it was short, and it didn’t cover the whole 20th Century, and it definitely centered on Europe and Americas.  But I thought it was an interesting look at world history from World War 1 through the end of the Cold War.  He infuses some of his own theories and philosophy into the history, which I think is interesting.


Joel Osteen

If you spend 5 minutes every morning with Joel Osteen you can’t help but smile!  This 2-CD book goes through 31 positive Scriptures that you can pray over your life.  It’s full of pithy phrases that you can put on your fridge:  “Don’t expect the worst.  That’s using your faith in reverse!”  All in all, it is a good reminder that our words are powerful and we should be careful to be purposeful in what we say.  It’s also a good reminder that God likes us a lot!  Here is a good morning quote from Joel:  “Good morning you blessed, prosperous, successful, strong, talented, confident, secure, disciplined, focused, highly favored, child of the most high God!”


Rich Like Them
Ryan d’Agostino

Interesting premise here:  the author spent Fridays and Saturdays walking around the richest zip codes in the US, knocking on doors, and asking the owners if they had advice about being successful.  I’m a sucker for this type of book.  It mixes personal stories with common sense platitudes like “work harder than everyone else” and “find what you’re good at and go with it” to describe how these people found success.


Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly


Highly Recommend!  Bill does a great job of bringing the era to life.  He explains the way that Roman culture was intertwined with Jewish life, and helps to explain the circumstances leading to Jesus’ death. I felt that he did an appropriate job of presenting the story historically without demeaning the faith element.



The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis


Required reading!  I had always thought this would be a weird book…demons and such.  But it isn’t written that way at all.  CS Lewis was an amazing genius, whose satirical (aka sarcastic, tongue in cheek) writing is spot on.  (I said that cuz he’s British.)  This is probably a PG13 book, but an easy read.



Essentialism, by Greg McKeown


Love this book!  Great reminder that we sometimes chase after 100 things when we should be pursuing the one or two things that really matter.  Highly recommend this one – here at OPL we sometimes err on doing too much, so this kind of book is important for us to read. I enjoyed this book very much, especially because it was read by the author, who is British.  I really felt like the Geiko lizard was reading it to me.



Focus, by Daniel Goleman


I have already written about focus quite a bit, and this is one book that gave me ideas about the topic.  I thought that elements of this book were really good, in the same basic topic as Essentialism.  I love Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence theory, and enjoy his work in general.  This book was very long, and ironically, I felt that it was a bit unfocused.  He applied focus to a variety of settings, including environmentalism (which he is very passionate about), while I was mainly interested in how to harness great focus for our personal lives and in the workplace.



American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham


The latest in my quest to read a biography of each American President.  I like Jon Meacham’s style of bringing the characters to life.  This was a long book, and I felt that he delved into some of the interpersonal drama with much more detail than was necessary.  Over all, judging from this book, Andrew Jackson is my least favorite President so far.  But he definitely accomplished a lot during his time in office.



The Book of Investing Wisdom by Peter Krass


This is a compilation of essays, articles, and speeches from a variety of investing gurus through the years.  I listened to probably 75% of it and then gave up.  If I were to summarize all of their wisdom, it is this:  “Good luck!”  Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but it is frustrating to listen to their advice because so much of it is contradictory:  “Buy and hold, no matter what, except for when you have bought and are holding a bad company.”  “Do the opposite of what everyone else is doing, because everyone else is crazy.”  It was interesting to see the historical perspective and to realize that the same type of things have been going on for hundreds of years…there is nothing new under the sun!  If you are interested in investing this would be a good one to add to your collection, but it is pretty dry to read through consecutively.



Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman 


Could be subtitled – “Many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are backfiring.”  Honestly, most of this stuff would have been considered common sense a generation or two ago, and was a fairly good encouragement that we are doing things right.  One point I really learned is that getting enough sleep is crucial in children and adolescents, because as their brains develop they literally have different sleep patterns than adults do.  Sleep deprivation in me is less damaging than sleep deprivation in my kids.  All in all, a good book if you enjoy parenting books based on pseudo-science/psychology.


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