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.

54. Deep church: a third way beyond emerging and traditional

Deep church - Jim BelcherBelcher attempts to take the ecclesiology conversation beyond Modernism and Post-Modernism, beyond Evangelical and Emergent, to a Third Way (which he calls Deep Church), by defining some tenants where those two diverge, having a conversation with proponents of one and the other, and then trying to articulate an alternative to both. The definitions and conversations are valuable; the articulations are a little less so. Still, this was a worthwhile read for some background on the history of this growing division in the church, and a good stab at defining a way forward. I found particularly helpful the idea that the church needs to both make space to bring all people into Jesus’ orbit, and still help people move beyond association to true community and commitment.

What we see with Jesus is that thousands of people were invited into the community of Jesus. But once they joined the community, Jesus challenged them to not just be part of the community but to commit themselves to him… And many did. They became his disciples.

There you go. There’s a third way. Or a first way.

53. The hunger games

The hunger games - Suzanne CollinsThe blockbuster page-turning series everyone’s talking about, soon-to-be-a-movie. I remember the reviews when this was first published, mostly centering on the bloodsport as reality-tv angle. Katniss, from a future Appalachia in a totalitarian post-nuclear society, wins (or loses, as it were) the lottery and must compete in The Hunger Games, a tool of the Capitol to keep the various districts in line by pitting their children against each other in a yearly death match. Of course, she wins, but she displays defiance that angers the government and ignites the imaginations of the country, with implications for Books 2 and 3. It moves like a bullet, but it’s pitched at billboard level. If you want to know where teens have been, psychologically, for the last 4 or 5 years, you should probably get through this series.

52. The magicians

The magicians - Lev GrossmanA group of college students go to Hogwarts, drink, sleep around, learn magic, graduate, and are transported (via a process strongly reminiscent of The Magician’s Nephew) directly to Narnia. Quentin Coldwater, the protagonist, becomes so disillusioned by what happens to him there that he quits the scene entirely, content (sort of) to live his life turned down to about a 2 rather than up to 11. Essentially a mash note to fantasy for cynical 30 and 40 somethings who grew up on Narnia, graduated to Hogwarts, and now need some sort of new fantasy series to reflect their current era. I’ll be serving wine at my book club when we talk about it.