“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” ~Mark Twain
“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” ~P. J. O’Rourke
One of the categories of relationship I’ve enjoyed most through the years has been that of teacher and student. Most recently at Dallas Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University, those relationships stretch as far back as twenty three years ago at St. Paul’s United Theological College and later Kenya Baptist Theological College, each situated some fifty kilometers from Nairobi, Kenya. I love the stimulating exchange of ideas and occasional challenge to them. Most of all, I love the students themselves. Many of them from both continents stay in touch, and frequently put forth the same question I received almost daily when meeting them in the classroom: “Dr. Fowlkes, what are you reading?” Their inquiry has nothing to do with the day’s assigned reading for class; they want to know my literary preferences on a far more personal level.
In keeping with that vein of thought, I’ve decided to share from time-to-time a short list of books that I’m currently speeding or slogging through. It is a rarity for me to complete one without having started multiple others, so my current reading list will likely always contain several titles. For the past twenty or so years I have attempted to follow a simple rule of thumb, that of reading roughly simultaneously one proven classic, another by a more contemporary author, and, finally, perusing reliable periodicals containing the most up-to-date coverage of ideas and events. Here is my current assortment accompanied by a few comments:
A Bend in the River, by V. S. Naipaul (Kindle edition). Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
– Naipaul is a Nobel prize winning author from Trinidad whose subject matter often confronts colonialism and its modern repercussions. He writes through his struggle with a mix of Trinidadian, Indian, and British roots. At times the result is somewhat comic. At other times the tone is rather bleak, but Naipaul’s works are always well written.
The Nick Adams Stories, by Ernest Hemingway. Published by Scribner, 1969.
– Hemingway lines my shelves, and I rarely find myself without a volume close at hand. His terse writing style sweeps the reader along with his flawed characters through self-discovery, and, at times, self-loathing. All too often when reading Hemingway, I find myself staring back at me.
The Logic of Evangelism, by William J. Abraham. Published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.
– Don’t let the publishing date deceive you; this is a classic. I heartily recommend this work to all those who enjoy thinking deeply about conversion, the Gospel, and disciple making. Today’s Church could use a fresh jolt from The Logic of Evangelism.
Black Flags: The rise of Isis, by Joby Warrick. Published by Doubleday, 2015.
– In preparation for an upcoming journey to northern Iraq, I am attempting a bit of immersion into the history and mind of ISIS. This is a grim but gripping account of the crisis that weighs heavily on our world and lies all the more forebodingly on the horizon.
My Utmost: A devotional memoir, by Macy Halford. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
– I have only just started this book, but according to the first few pages holds promise for a good read. My Utmost for His Highest has long been a favorite of mine, so I am enjoying reading about its impact through a fresh set of youthful eyes.