61. Mockingjay

Mockingjay - Suzanne CollinsMeet the new boss, same as the old boss. In which Katniss discovers that the rebel regime is in many ways as totalitarian as the nasty old regime, and in a fit of magnificent melodrama turns on her liberators with what turns out to be perfect wisdom. And then wraps up the love triangle neatly and lives happily ever after. Whoops, did I spoil it? All the good characters are either martyred tragically or succeed against all odds. All the bad characters reveal their true colors at the end, and die either miserably or gloriously, depending on whether you see this series as a probing and multidimensional political critique or a healthy slice of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too reality television masquerading as a political critique. But its miserable and glorious, for sure.

60. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy - John Le CarréThe trick is in making the stuffing so good, you overlook the skeleton of the beast. The spy-thriller-skeleton is all there — the subtle tips to “tradecraft,” “lamplighters,” “janitors,” and the lot; the parade of secondary characters being plied with drink to spill their portion of the narrative; the double- and triple-crosses — but the body of it is so good you just go along for the thrillride. Smiley is called in to ferret out a mole in British intelligence after a deep cover operation goes haywire in Czechoslovakia. I wanted not to see Gary Oldman (or Sir Alec Guinness for that matter) before I’d read this for myself. Le Carré seldom fails me.

59. Reconciliation blues: a black evangelical’s inside view of white Christianity

Reconciliation blues - Edward Gilbreath“When you’re privileged you don’t even know you’re privileged,” basically. Black evangelicals, get used to a life of checking your race at the door when you enter the world of white establishment evangelicalism. Gilbreath is kind and self-effacing about it, but that’s the gist. The issues considered in this book are right in my wheelhouse, and it was worth it to read the story of the black evangelical leader who had to suffer the white evangelical leader’s personal confession and apology for his and his race’s abuses. It doesn’t work like that, he told the teary-eyed confessor. Come over to my house and let’s grill out and get to know each other. Your absolution comes in relationship, not in ritual. There’s the takeaway, folks.

58. Primal leadership: realizing the power of emotional intelligence

Primal leadership - Daniel GolemanGoleman et al transfer their research in emotional intelligence to the realm of leadership, advancing the idea that leaders who create emotional resonance in their organizations through their mastery of certain emotional competencies will be better leaders than those that don’t. This task is “primal,” hence the title. It boils down to being smarter, emotionally, than the people you lead, which is sound principle but not quite so noble as the book tries to paint it. The competencies — self-control, influence, empathy, etc. — are sound. I finished it for integrity’s sake.

57. Visioneering: God’s blueprint for developing and maintaining personal vision

Visioneering - Andy StanleyRead for our Church Planting Residency at Vineyard Columbus. A study on the book of Nehemiah, looking at what vision is and how to develop it, shepherd it, act on it and sustain it in concert with a faith in God. 13 or so building blocks for the creation and pursuit of vision; sound principles, and lots of timely grace for Zena and I as we consider what planting a church is going to look like. But it’s not rocking my world or anything.

56. Catching fire

Catching fire - Suzanne Collins“We have to go back, Katniss. We have to go baaaaaaaaack!!!”

In which Collins contrives to send Katniss back into the hunger games, but this time as the icon of a burgeoning revolution, and we discover that District 13 lives. And of course she wins again, with a shot heard round the world, starting the revolution (hence the title, eh?).

Forgot in my notes on The Hunger Games to comment on the love triangle aspect (also completely contrived) to these books, which is prolonged here, and the outcome of which is a foregone conclusion. Teen fiction! Also, the awfulness of some of the sci-fi tropes, including the glaringly obvious and banal evolutions of vocabulary (“muttations,” “Peeta”)

I can see the appeal, and I’ll finish the series for completeness sake, and because its a rollercoaster ride, and out of a vague sense of anthropological duty to the teens of my era, but…

55. The magician king

The magician king - Lev GrossmanThe follow-up to The Magicians. Surely there’s a third in the works. In which Quentin is now one of the four Kings and Queens of Fillory/Narnia, and becomes disillusioned once again, and embarks on a quest to become a hero, and both succeeds and fails. Goes into the back story of Julia, the hedge-witch from The Magicians, and how she mastered magic without being admitted to Brakebills/Hogwarts. Touches on themes of myth and magic, and the capriciousness of the Gods, and how much you might have to give up in order to get what you don’t really understand.

Zena pointed out that this book will date quickly, with references to Google Street View and Harry Potter and the like. It’s probably going to need some kind of Appendix eventually.

The book suffers from some thinness in its attempts to justify Quentin’s moral awakening. He spends so much time being a self-involved jerk that I kind of don’t buy it when he briefly cops to wanting to help Julia. Suzanne says this book, and its predecessor, are both about depression. I disagree — I think if these are about depression then every modern novel is about depression. These books are about the disconnect between fantasy and satisfaction. Between desire and happiness. The fulfillment of the one does not lead to the other.

Despite its shortcomings, it sticks the landing. Count me in for The Magician in Exile or whatever the series closer is going to be titled.