Archives For if you could only read one book

If You Only Read One Love Story

Chris —  October 5, 2011

If you could only read one love story, you should read A Severe Mercy.  The book is the journey of Sheldon and Davy Vanauken, through romance,  courtship, marriage, infidelity, agnosticism, faith, and eventually death.  The book is best known for containing the author’s correspondance with C.S. Lewis on issues of faith and death.

The book begins with the couple’s meeting and romance in an ivy league college.  They define themselves as “high pagans,” seeking after the higher virtues of classical culture.  They believed that they could keep the “in love” feeling that couples experience early on when they share everything.  They share the details of their days, passionately explore the other’s interests, and even sail around the world together.  The uniqueness of their romance inspires Lewis’s words, and the title “A Severe Mercy.”

Unfortunately, Jesus messes this up.  As honest agnostics and intellectuals, they decide that someday they must look into the claims of Christianity.  When they move to Oxford they encounter intellectuals who also follow Christ, and they begin their investigation.  This result is a correspondance and friendship with C.S. Lewis, who helps personalize much that he his books discuss.  They both experience conversion, but their endless romance is never the same.  Vanauken candidly explains the strains this new faith took on their marriage, and how it took death to rebuild their relationship.

Much of the book grapples the illness and death of Davy, and how their new faith was affected.  Fascinatingly, the correspondence includes letters both before and after Lewis’s own experience with burying a wife.

It’s hard to capture in a blog post the beautiful, thought provoking and heart wrenching nature of this book.  It presents a picture of how faith can be intellectual, how romance can be meaningful, and how death can be accepted.  It is the story of a life well lived, and a love worth emulating.

If You Read One Book on Sport

Chris —  July 6, 2011

To be fair, this is the only book I’ve read on Sport.  But it was amazing.

You can read my original thoughts about Born to Run, but here’s a few reason that EVERYONE should read it.

1.  It’s really fun.  At it’s core, the book is a mystery story: how can seeming Stone Age Native Mexicans accomplish feats that allude the best trained American athletes?  The journey takes you through badlands, past drug dealers, to the Rocky Mountains and Death Valley, and back in time thousands of years.

2.  It’s a must read for runners.  The stories of average people doing things that seem superhuman inspires you to get out there and push yourself.

3.  It explains the funny toe socks everyone is wearing. It will convince you to wear them, too.

4.  It will make you proud of your sweat. It’s the reason you can outrun a deer.

But seriously, one of the most fun and fascinating reads ever.  When you’re done, let me know, and we’ll discuss it over a chia fresca.


Perelandra is possibly the greatest work of the towering twentieth century Protestant Scholar-Saint.  Like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe it uses allegorical fiction to portray Christian truths.  Yet it’s depth and maturity takes it further than Narnia ever could go.

The book is more in classic Science Fiction, in the vein of H.G. Wells or Jules Verne than modern space opera.  It uses the ideas of space travel to propel a conversation about the nature of humanity.

In many ways, the book is a re-imagining of the story of Adam, Eve and the Serpent, taking place on a foreign planet, and told through the eyes of a narrator remarkably similar in character to Lewis himself.  The book delves into the depth and the dullness of evil, the nature of temptation, and the tangible reality of the spiritual realm.

Perelandra serves in many ways as an overview of Lewis’ thought, touching on ideas addressed in everything from Miracles to Screwtape Letters to The Problem With Pain.  However, he accomplishes it in a way that no other writer can: he wraps fascinating theology in a fantastical drama.

Not only will you have fun reading Perelandra, but you’ll never look at Genesis or the night sky the same.

Check out this cool photostream of Perelandra sketches!

I remember being taught all of the apologetic quips that were supposed to show the ridiculousness of evolution.  There was the one about monkeys at typewriters were more likely to write Hamlet than evolve into human beings.  The popular Christian response to evolution’s pervasiveness has been more about fear and pride than conversation.

The fact of the matter is, evolution isn’t going anywhere. Christians need to become conversant.  This isn’t a call to change one’s beliefs, but to recognize that there are intelligent people who disagree with you. Just because they disagree with you doesn’t mean they are stupid, insincere, or incapable of following Jesus.

Francis Collins may be one of the smartest men in America.  He’s a scientist, a doctor, the former head of the Human Genome Project, and the current head of the National Institute of Health.  He’s also a Bible believing Christian.

The Language of God is part biography, part textbook.  Collins tells of how his work as a doctor forced him to question agnosticism, and eventually led him to faith.  He also explains how DNA works, how evolution works, and the shortcomings of popular arguments against evolution.  His solution is BioLogos, which honors the truths of the Bible without ignoring the weight of science.

If you’re skeptical that the Bible and science can get along, or you just want to be able to converse intelligently on the subject, you should read The Language of God.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, listen to him SING!

This book could as easily be named “one book on Love” or “one book on religion.”  It is deeply formative for facing the truth of how people work, get along, and experience reality and the divine.  It is M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled.

I think of this book as a psychologist’s Mere Christianity. Both serve as an “autobiography of thought,” tracing the intellectual process that brought the writer to faith.  The Road Less Traveled was written as Peck was on the cusp of conversion.  He is simultaneously a top notch scientist and openminded mystic, using both to understand the soul.

The book deals with the realities of life.  It talks about how we learn, how we love, how what passes as love is usually hurtful, and how we come to the divine.  The opening words give you a taste of the combination of profound and personal.

Life is Difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly see that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult.  Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.  They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others.  I know about this moaning because I have done my share.

Life is a series of problems.  Do we want to moan about them or solve them?  Do we want to teach our children to solve them?

Like The Divine Conspiracy, The Road Less Traveled is an almost yearly book for me.  If you read one book to learn about how people work, read The Road Less Traveled.

Available in paperback and audio.