Bookshelf 2008

This is a long post, but if you’re interested please read on.  For those reading from the homepage, I’ll break it up for the sake of space.

As I did in 2007, I kept track of what books I read in 2008. This may or may not be of any interest to you, but it’s useful for me, especially as the number seems to be increasing.  This list allows me to show not only my exceeding inteligence, but also how big of a nerd I am.  🙂

Here are some thoughts on the various books I read in 2008:  Continue reading

Getting Rid of Books

I am, by nature, a collector.  I’m not sure where I got this from, but my aversion to throwing anything away approaches a psychological disorder.  Thankfully, over the past year I’ve read (and re-read) Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much, which has helped cure me of a lot of these tendencies.  (This book, BTW, is one that will absolutely change your life. Especially if you ignore the fact that he’s on Oprah and has a weird chin beard.)

The one thing that I cannot stop collecting is books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  There are three kinds of books I seem to compulsively buy: science fiction, theology, and history.  The first because I really like sci-fi, the second because I fancy myself an amateur theologian and preacher, and the last because that’s my future profession.

But lately I’ve had to make some decisions about what books to keep and what ones to get rid of.  Over time, my library has grown too large, and our house has grown too small.  So, I had to make some tough choices and get rid of some books.  Here are the tests I employed in deciding what to keep and what to sell.  Most of these won’t apply to the majority of people, especially if you have plenty of room to store your books, but for the people like me who either have little room or expect to move in the next few years, they could prove useful.

1. The Reading Test. Basically, this comes down to “Have I read this book yet?”  These books can be further subdivided into two group: “I will read this someday” and “I have no intention to read this book.”  Most of the first group is books that I know will be good, but I haven’t had the time to read yet (Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine is one on my shelf).  The second group includes books that people have given me, ones that I bought a long time ago when I was in a different mindset, or ones that seemed good at the time, but have never really caught my interest.

With these books, you have to be ruthless.  If you have a book you have never read and you have no intentions of ever reading it, then you should probably go ahead a get rid of it.  If you’re keeping a book on your shelf because it looks good and you want to seem smart, then you should probably get rid of it.  On the other hand, if you have books you’ve never read but you really plan on reading them, then you should find a way to include it in your rotation.  Put it next to your bed (or, as in my case, on the back of the toilet) and try to read it.  Otherwise, think about when you want to read and schedule for it.  (Okay, I know the idea of scheduling reading a book sounds stupid, but I think like a graduate student, not a normal person.

2. The Re-read Test. Okay, so I’ve read a book, but will I ever actually read it again?  Again, these need to be subdivided: books I’ve read but didn’t do much for me; books I’ve read and we’re good, but I don’t need to read again; and books that were so bad that they cry out, begging me to get rid of them.  The first and the last ones are easy to get rid of.  If a book doesn’t do anything for me or if it’s horrible, then why would I want to keep it.  But if a book was good, how could I get rid of it?  A good example of this for me is The Raggamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  I loved that book and took to heart a lot of the stuff in it, but once I had read it, I knew I would probably not read it again, so I got rid of it.

3. The Redundancy Test. This is something I had to deal with just the other day.  I had two sets of word study books that covered the same subject and gave essentially the same answers.  Both were great sets and did me a lot of good, but why did I need two sets when one would do?  How many definitive biographies of John C. Fremont do I need?  How many copies of The Lord of the Rings do I need?  (Answer: apparently 4.)  Again, this requires being ruthless, but too many books on the same subject with the same thesis just isn’t practical.

All of us have too much of something and we could do with being brutally honest with ourselves and ask the hard questions.  Why do I need this?  How is it improving my life?  What would happen if I got rid of it?  For me, these questions need to be asked about books, and I don’t always like the answer.

This is Why Historians are Not Theologians

This premillennialism, which dominated the Second Great Awakening, carried a radical, activist vigor, unlike the more passive and negative postmillennialism of later decades (and our own day) that would stress humans’ innate depravity and the necessity of preparing for a Second Coming as Christ willed it.  Postmillennialism would focus not on social reform but on the apocalypse– a universal social catastrophe rather than human progress.

This Terrible War: The Civil War and Its Aftermath 2nd Edition by Fellman, Gordon and Sutherland (22)

If they’re talking about the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, then I understand the first point (although the second still makes no sense).  But in what way is postmillenialism passive and negative, awaiting the end times without a care for the present world?  Without getting into the millennial debate, isn’t that the definition of premillennialism?  And in what way is our own day dominated by postmillennialism?  A cursory survey of evangelicalism in the United States will see that assertion is completely false.  As a general rule, you should never trust historians when it comes to matters of theology.

Bit Literacy: Paper or Electronic?

Chapter 1 begins with a bang: Hurst admonishes us for using paper when we should be doing everything electronically. While paper does have its advantages, namely low cost and durability, the disadvantages far outweigh any positives. For instance, according to Hurst, paper kills trees; bits do not kill trees. Bits are nothing more than electrons, even though hardware “can be poisonous to the environment” (10).

Also, paper takes up space which can inundate the user, while bits take up no more space than a harddrive or a USB thumbdrive. Storage size is constantly increasing while physical size is decreasing. Paper, on the other hand, can only be so small. Paper can also be torn, burnt, destroyed and fade.

Hurst further shows his disdain for paper when he replaces what is obviously GTD with [complex paper-based system] in an email quote. It’s obvious from both the first chapter and his chapter on todos that he does not like paper.

So, it’s obvious that I disagree with him on this point. First of all, I don’t think GTD is a complex paper-based system. I certainly think GTD is better implemented if you use paper, but as David Allen says, it’s platform agnostic. You can do GTD completely paperless or completely computerless. This is why the system is timeless.

Secondly, the argument that paper kills trees but bits do not is ridiculous. He says hardware “can be” poisonous, when he should say it “absolutely is”. My iPod has mercury in it; if not properly disposed of, this mercury can and will cause damage to the environment. Also, the idea that bits themselves are not harmful is slightly disingenuous. Sure, bits are just electrons, but they do require something to display them. Computers use quite a bit of electricity which is probably fueled by coal which is probably strip-mined and, well, you get the point.

Finally, Hurst doesn’t seem to take into account that some people actually prefer to use paper in some circumstances. I am a fan of the Hipster PDA, which basically just means I carry index cards around with me to make notes and keep track of actions list. There are times when I can’t get to a computer or when I’m not allowed to be online (at work), but I still need to stay on top of my projects. Paper, whether index cards or a Moleskine journal, is an invaluable resource.

While I disagree with Hurst on this point (and fairly early on in the book), he still does make some good points about the sheer size of paper. Of course, if you’ve been using a computer for any period of time, you probably have gigs and gigs of files that even the best filing system can’t help you with.

What Else Could This Apply To?

Many people know they’re overloaded. What they may not realize is that they’re responsible for their own success in managing their bits. To be free of overload and the problems it causes, users must choose to be become bit-literate. This is more than making a mental decision to change; it requires actively working with bits in a new way. Learning the necessary skills isn’t difficult, but it can be a barrier for many people. (Mark Hurst, Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload, 12)