Bruce’s 2012 Summer Reading List

If you’re anything like me, there’s a stack of books sitting in your home that, every time you walk past it, the bindings stare you down longingly pleading, “Read me. Please read me.” to which you reply, “Soon, books, soon . . . as soon as I have some free time.”

Yeah riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Unlike some members of my family who have a gift for curling up with and disappearing into a book for hours on end, I am easily distracted and often ready 3-4 books at a time.  Summer is one of those times, however, that I am often able to carve out chunks of time to read. I read for both fun as well as “work” all with an eye towards expanding my current thinking and broadening my view of the world.

Five’ish I am reading for my own enjoyment.

These are ones that I’ll be reading via my Kindle or in actually book form. Many of these books are what I affectionately call, Brain Candy. Many of these books keep me sane amidst the other great content I try to absorb along the journey. Please do not judge 😉

The Alienist (a re-read) by Caleb Carr – I have read this one 3-4 times and am riveted each and every time.  Set in the late 1890’s New York City, it is a must-read for you historical crime fiction lovers out there. While some of Carr’s other books were not as gripping, Carr’s follow-up to The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness is also a great read.

Shift!: The Unfolding Internet – Hype, Hope and History by Edward Burman – Don’t let the the price tag discourage you. Because this is used as a text book in many places, it can be found through various other means. I found mine for less that 10 bucks via another amazon seller. Just started this one and it is one of those books that looks like a quick read, but every sentence and paragraph is packed with meaning. If you are a social media person, I would highly suggest this one if you want to REALLY understand how and why we have gotten to where we are today.

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang – This one has been sitting on my shelf ever since RKP introduced me to graphic novels. The illustrations are simply beautiful and the story is intriguing. I will admit that I have failed before at trying to read graphic novels in the past – Watchmen – but am hoping to jump in again.

In reading order, I am jumping on the Seth Grahame-Smith train by checking out from my library  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and/or/then Unholy Night and/or/then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance. I will admit, other than my own cute zombie, vampires and other communities of undead have never really been my thing. But since a colleague recently told me that Grahame-Smith’s tales were worth a read, I’m giving them a try.

Five I am reading and hoping to review this summer.

These are books that will accompany me on my trips in actual book form, be generously marked up and be reviewed on this blog.  If you happen o review any of them yourself, please feel free to send me a note or leave a comment here and I’ll link to your reviews.

Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology by Mihee Kim-Kort

Follow You, Follow Me: Why Social Networking is Essential to Ministry by John Voelz

The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation by Stephen Prothero

Geography of Grace: Doing Theology From Below by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke

On My Honor: Real Life Lessons from America’s First Girl Scout by Shannon Henry Kleiber

Ryan Kemp-Pappan: Five Graphic Novels Every Pastor Should Read

I love sharing my blogging space with an occasional guest bloggers. It is my intention help share some new/different voices with a larger audience Today’s post is from my friend, Ryan Kemp-Pappan. Ryan is a “LGBTQ Advocate. Minister. Recovering Addict. Friend. Son. Spiritual Director. Social Worker. Artist. Writer. LA Dodger fan. Taco Aficionado. Runner. Aspiring Vegan. Extrovert married to an introvert.” Be sure to connect with Ryan on his BLOG, on TWITTER and on FACEBOOK. Thanks Ryan!

Being a broken, unemployed, and recently married young(er) fella I was super excited to be getting a job that paid me to do stuff I loved to do. I had to read, study scripture, and forge relationships with folks. I even got to watch movies and read comic books again. This last perk was my favorite thing to do as a kid.

I read a lot during the eleven years of undergraduate study and even more as a seminarian. In seminary, I did not once read for fun outside of menus and the occasional left behind newspaper. When I graduated from seminary and got my first call I received vacation and study time and other glorious perks, not to mention a great salary package.

The best part of this salary package was the book allowance. I was able to buy books, all kinds of books! I bought about a hundred books that first year and could not keep up with reading them. I was well purchased and decently read.

The next year I decided to not buy any more books until I had read all the books I bought the previous year. Then a friend of mine named “Funkmaster3000” gave me the challenge of challenges! He challenged me to only read graphic novels for an entire year. I loved comics as a kid and took him up on it.

I read many wonderful books. The range and depth of story that was engaged by graphic novels surprised me. I imagined I would read a lot of “hero” books or weird French books about crime and romance. There was real theology going on in these books and it renewed my faith as I explored it. This is a list of those I feel that every pastor should read.

ONE |  Irredeemable, 8 Volumes by Mark Waid and Peter Krause published by BOOM! Studios.

This is a great story. Imagine if the likes of Superman, the world’s greatest hero, seemingly turned bad over night, this is the story of the Plutonian. Here is part of the foreword by Mark Waid, “No one simply turns evil one day. Villainy isn’t a light switch. The road to darkness is filled with moments of betrayal, of loss, of disappointment, and of superhuman weakness. In the case of the Plutonian, there were sidekicks who sold his secrets. There were friends who preyed too often on his selflessness and enemies who showed him unsettling truths about himself. And those were the good days.”

This is a wonderful engagement of those moments in ones life where goodness conflicts with the nature of human sin. Tackling those “what-if” moments in the safety of a hero’s world allows for many of us to connect, relate and examine the realities within ourselves as we seek to minister for God to others.

TWO | Buddha, 8 Volumes by Osamu Tezuka, published by Vertical

I cannot remember how many times I have recommended this book to someone. This is the single greatest book that I have ever read. I savored every page, every word I read. I did not want it to end. I purposely took almost two months to finish the final volume (8) the first time I read it, as I was not willing to let the story end.

This is the story of Siddhattha Gotama and chronicles his life, as he becomes Buddha. A cast of fictionalized and real characters are developed and explored as very human characteristics are engaged and offered up to the reader to connect with. I enjoyed the direct nature of this encounter with violence, death, sex, and other traditionally taboo topics in my own faith experience. This book opened up my faith and allowed me to explore it through the lens of other wisdom navigated by the genius and daring of Tezuka.

THREE | Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly, Published by Vertigo

This was the grittiest story that I read that took place in the United States. It is the story of MF Grimm a popular gangster rapper from the early 90’s. This book was a very real exposure to a life that is far from my own experience. The violence and angry that carried the book was not gratuitous.

I enjoyed this book because it introduced me to my “Other.” It took me out of the comfort zone of my life and offered me a counter to the early 90’s rap world I had lived in Los Angeles. It took my privilege and slapped the shit out of me with it. It forced me to see the humanity, the struggle, and hope for humanity that dwells in the depths of all our hearts. It is a wonderful examination of the dominant culture that shapes the norms used to strengthen injustice and marginalize people.

FOUR | Rex Mundi, Six Volumes by Arvid Nelson, Eric J, and Jeromy Cox published by Dark Horse Books.

I love alternative history stuff. Here is a book that supposes that the Protestant Reformation was smashed and exists only as a terrorist organization as the Catholic Church asserts it totalitarian authority upon the world. Need I say more?

It is a Steam Punkish setting with a dark mystic allure where the authors embellish the story with fake newspapers, maps, and a wonderfully detailed history available on the book website. It is extremely addictive and a fascinating look at the what if’s of the revolution that forged the foundations of my faith community. Easily one of my favorite books ever!

FIVE | The Walking Dead, 16 Volumes by Robert Kirkman Published by Image

Before there was the AMC TV show there was Kirkman’s intense apocalyptic journey through a mobile, living hell. This is one of those books that you will stay up late in to the night to finish. I read the first four volumes in one sitting. The story is very real. It explores humanity in ways we dare not as theologians. The dialogue is witty, honest and it scares the shit out of you. I found myself reading them in broad daylight or in the company of others.

It is one harrowing tale of depravity after another. You are bombarded with all evidence that God has forgotten the fearfully, wonderfully part of creation and has unleashed unimaginable carnage and judgment upon us.

Say good bye to Romero’s slow walking, dim-whit zombies and hello to Kirkman’s honest reflection of humanity in a pivotal era that demands we answer for the corporate sin of capitalism, greed, and the inhumanity we afflict each other with.

SIX-TEN | In case 5 is not enough . . .