📚 Review: The Benedict Option

Note: This book came up in conversation recently, and I took a moment to move my review onto my current blog, with some minor changes. This review is from August 2017.

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher ⭐️

This was an incredibly disappointing book. If you are looking for a better account of modern “Options”, read something from one of the “new monastics” or spend some time learning from an intentional Christian community (such as Catholic Worker houses, Reba Place Fellowship, Rutba House, the Simple Way community, the Bruderhof, or Hutterite communities).

Dreher’s focus in this book is much less about saving faithful Christianity, and much more about saving Conservatism. He laments the fall of corrupt Christendom but doesn’t appear to embrace the subversive and loving alternative of the Kingdom of God. He struggles more for power & control than mercy & justice.

He seems obsessed with issues of sexuality, spending a great deal of the book talking about his personal perspectives on it, but doing little to engage actual scholarship on the topics. It far outweighs the time he spends on other topics, and he gives little attention to the life and teachings of Jesus.

To underscore the point about his conservative priorities: Dreher spends time revering Mormonism and Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism over Christian traditions that aren’t Orthodox/Catholic.

My specific alternative recommendation to reading this book: get a copy of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and start using it with your family, friends, small group, house church, and/or faith community.

Further recommended reading: this review from an actual Benedictine Monk.

Sunday Quote

Recently finished 📚 Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Recommended for complex vertical/psychological development. Good companion to The Map by Keith M. Eigel & Karl W. Kuhnert. Immunity is more promotional but also has more how-to guidance.

I liked Malcolm Gladwell’s 📚 Talking to Strangers, but I liked this podcast of him talking about the topic even better. He was more cutting, witty, etc. Great dynamic between Ezra and Malcolm on the show.

‘King was arrested 29 times in his short life. Many of those times, he was charged with “disturbing the peace.”’

From “Why we need to move closer to King’s understanding of nonviolence” from Waging Nonviolence.

What are the tech companies that are doing the most harm? What would be your top 5? Here is Slate’s list.

📚 Finished A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mostly an incredible conclusion to the story. Suffered from inconsistent portrayal of Egwene and Gawyn that went contrary to their character arcs. Rand parts also a little hokey with Mormon stuff.

Check out this new book from Mark Van Steenwyk

Checking out the preview from the new Igorrr album. First track and we already have breakbeats, metal, funk, etc. all in one song. Love his creativity. 🎵

Sunday Quote

Interested in Live Action role-playing games? Live within driving distance of Indianapolis? Come join our group! We’ll try games like Inheritance by Burning Wheel HQ, The Forgotten by Andrew Medeiros, Winterhorn and other LARPs by Bully Pulpit Games.

“The kingdom of heaven is in a basement”

Parables of the Kingdom: a poem from Isaiah Lewis from Mercy Community Church it Atlanta, Georgia.

TIL: Moaning Myrtle is also the little droidsmith in the latest star war.

I’ve been working on learning more repair and restoration skills. I watched a how-to video and then fixed my own sock 🧦 last night. Feelingly inordinately proud of myself.

“It’s very easy to come up with superficially persuasive arguments that can justify just about anything. The job of an intelligent populace is to see whether those arguments can actually withstand scrutiny.”

How To Avoid Swallowing War Propaganda

📚 Finished Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ With this book, it’s really coming together. I really enjoyed the Perrin, Egwene, Gawyn, Galad, etc. story-crossover scene. Also, Perrin is still the best.

What’s the best way to do Basecamp-style check-ins in Microsoft Teams?

Reminder: US political definitions are weird, and it’s better to talk about your values and the complexities of your perspectives. Example: ecological conservation is actually conservative and freed markets are liberal, but they are generally considered the opposite in the US.

Sunday Quote

Just found out my spouse has created her own markdown-like syntax system without even knowing markdown was a thing. 😁

blood now accounts for 2% of the country’s exports – more than corn or soy

from The blood of poor Americans is now a leading export

I’m a day late, but here’s this year’s results for Public Domain Day! 📚 #AbolishIP

2019 🎙 Review

When I’m commuting, doing chores, taking a walk, or even playing open-world video games, I often listen to spoken word. Sometimes these are audiobooks, but the rest of the time it’s podcasts.

I recommend Overcast for listening to podcasts, and am a happy subscriber.

This year, I started my own Podcast and Newsletter, Resilient. The frequency is low-volume while I find my bearings. Note: Resilient newsletter posts are free, but you do have to subscribe to get access to the podcasts. This is not expected to be a money-making endeavor for me, but I do want to limit the availability of the voice recordings to those who are truly interested. I charge the lowest price that Substack (my provider) allows and then add a hefty discount on top of that. If you would like a free gift subscription to the podcasts, please message me directly.

While I appreciate the idea of “chatty”, “actual-play”, and “review”-style podcasts, you won’t find those here.

  • Code Switch: If you don’t know what code switching is, you definitely need to listen to this. If you already do, you will likely enjoy the variety of topics and perspectives and the charming hosts.
  • Cyber: covering information security from the perspective you’d expect of Motherboard/Vice
  • The Ezra Klein Show: this is my new favorite show, overtaking Farnam Street as the best big ideas podcast, due to having a perspective, better back-and-forth, and deeper-dives
  • Freakonomics Radio: granted, some of this is “pop econ”, but it’s entertaining and frequently has good investigative research or covers big ideas.
  • From Embers: this is a Canadian anarchist podcast that often covers indigenous rights and our climate catastrophe
  • Invisibilia: a charming and perspective-widening show from NPR
  • The Knowledge Project: this podcast is interviews with “big thinkers”. The interviews often wander, but there are almost always important takeaways or food for thought.
  • Long Now - Conversations at the Interval & Seminars About Long-Term Thinking: the perspective of these podcasts is incredibly important, and the topics are often enlightening. They suffer a bit from being Silicon Valley focused, but are otherwise very good.
  • The Peter Attia Drive: deep dives on health, medicine, and longevity.
  • Note to Self: a philosophical take on technology trends.
  • Radiolab: entertaining, sometimes enlightening, and incredibly well-produced.
  • The Rebel Beat: a source for a wide variety of radical political music.
  • Rebel Steps: how-tos for people learning about organizing for direct action, solidarity, and mutual aid.
  • Risky Business: information security current events coverage, with excellent analysis. Skip the branded interviews
  • Scene on Radio: As you add this podcast, make sure you have your app setup to listen to a season in order. Seasons 2 & 3 (“Seeing White” and “Men”, respectively) were excellent, and I’m looking forward to season 4.
  • Sleepwalkers: in-depth discussion around the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence
  • Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!: a humorous weekly news quiz that you probably already know about.

Further Notes

Last year’s podcast recommendations can be found here. I have re-used some of it as appropriate. You can read about my book recommendations here: non-fiction and fiction.

2019 📚 Review: Fiction

Overview

I set a goal of reading 63 books in 2019, which was a 10% increase over 2019. I met this goal exactly. I have again increased my goal by 10% plan to read at least 70 books in 2020.

About half of the books I read (32, to be exact) were fiction. I tend to read from the sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, classics, and RPG categories. These are all categories that help explore ideas and/or history.

How I Read

I get my books multiple ways. If I don’t know if I’ll like the book, I look for the audiobook or ebook in my Scribd subscription and then Libby (to borrow digitally from my local library). If it’s a book I’ll want to reread or lend, I order a hardback via Indiebound or Alibris. I only buy fiction ebooks if there are massive discounts on something I want and it’s not already in Scribd. I use Bookbub to watch for these discounts.

My book (and article) highlights and notes from all sources go automatically into Readwise.io, where I review 15 highlights each day to aid in retention and reflection. This is one of the ways I start my day, and it’s incredibly valuable.

I rate books between ⭐️ and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, with ⭐️⭐️⭐️ being the cutoff for a worthy book. Thus, I will only share about the ⭐️⭐️⭐️ through ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ books, here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter: while this isn’t loved by some Pratchett purists, I found this work of speculative fiction delightful & insightful and I was excited to find out there is a whole series.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin: from one of my favorite authors of 2018, this collection of shorter fiction is excellent.
  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie: highly-recommended fantasy where one of the perspectives is a god, and the plot constantly snowballs.
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman: an excellent allegorical tale about power and gender.
  • Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman: second in the Arc of a Scythe, Shusterman continues to deliver high intensity young adult fiction with lots of opportunities for deep discussion. I only wish it had a discussion guide like the first book!
  • Whitehack 2nd Ed. - Notebook Edition by Christian Mehrstam: this is an old-school RPG game with new school sensibilities. Includes pages for your own characters, notes, rules, etc.
  • Curse of Strahd by Chris Perkins and Jeremy Crawford: this D&D 5 adventure has had some solid updates from previous Ravenloft stories, including addressing problematic areas in better ways.
  • Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan: the first of the Powder Mage trilogy, this has a fresh take on fantasy and mystery. McLellan feels like a disciple of Sanderson.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny: the first of the Armand Gamache novels. I appreciated the attention Penny gave the the psychology and relationships of the characters.
  • Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon: a comic that asks big questions about war and freedom from a unique angle.
  • The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson: the 12th book of the Wheel of Time, and the really picks up and gets good, again. With this book, I can now see why folks like Egwene.
  • Mouse Guard Sketchbook: Legends by David Petersen: this is Petersen’s art that is homages-to-the-homages that show up in the Mouse Guard Legends collaborations.
  • Freefall by Jessica Barry: an accelerating thriller with fast-switching perspectives between a daughter trying to stay alive and her mother who thinks she is already dead.
  • In a Dark, Dark wood by Ruth Ware: feels like an old-school-but-modern thriller mystery.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Dawn by Octavia Butler: the first book in the Xenogenesis series, I’m looking forward to where this goes.
  • Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steve Kotler: a fun near-future cyberpunk-noir mystery.
  • The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy: this short fiction is a mashup of anarcho-punk aesthetic and modern supernatural horror.
  • Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: the 11th book, where the plot started to finally advance, again!
  • The Good Detective by John McMahon: the first P.T. Marsh mystery, one where it’s possible the detective’s actions led to the death of the prime suspect.
  • Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman: Neal’s son joins him on this new book, and a whole cast are involved in the audio recording. Not as good as Shusterman’s normal work, this is still an enjoyable book.
  • Atmosphæra Incognita by Neal Stephenson: a hard scifi short story from a collection about building possible futures.
  • X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris, Chris Carter, and Dirk Maggs: new audio stories in the X-Files universe, setup like full-audio dramas.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: in a deviation from the norm, this book is more about the sensory experience than the characters or plot.
  • Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: I find most Lovecraft unpalatable, but this comic interpretation was spellbinding.
  • Cable & Deadpool: If Looks Could Kill by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Brooks, & Patrick Zircher: this comic has all the weirdness you might expect from Deadpool & Cable.

Further Notes

For a review of my non-fiction read in 2019, see here. For 2018 books, see here.

For the Goodreads overview of my reading, see here.

Note: this post has affiliate links. I am linking to things I truly enjoy, and have not been paid or pressured to recommend any of them.

2019 📚 Review: Nonfiction

Overview

I set a goal of reading 63 books in 2019, which was a 10% increase over 2019. I met this goal exactly. I have again increased my goal by 10% and plan to read at least 70 books in 2020.

About half of the books I read (31, to be exact) were non-fiction. I seek books that may be “eye-opening”: those that challenge my understanding, worldview, and conceptions. I look for books of criticism, history, philosophy, ethics, theology, psychology, business, economics, and politics.

How I Read

For nonfiction, I get the books multiple ways. If I’m not sure I’ll like it and don’t expect I’ll need to take a lot of notes, I look for the audiobook or summary first in my Scribd subscription and then Libby (to borrow digitally from my local library). If I know I’ll want to reference the book a lot after finishing it, I order a hardback via Indiebound or Alibris. If I expect to learn a lot and/or take lots of highlights and notes, I’ll borrow the ebook via Libby or buy it from an ebook seller.

My book (and article) highlights and notes from all sources go automatically into Readwise.io, where I review 15 highlights each day to aid in retention and reflection. This is one of the ways I start my day, and it’s incredibly valuable.

I rate books between ⭐️ and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, with ⭐️⭐️⭐️ being the cutoff for a worthy book. Thus, I will only share about the ⭐️⭐️⭐️ through ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ books, here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: it’s rare for me to give 5 stars to anything, but Kendi did an excellent job sharing complex and important perspectives in an informative and actionable way.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: Highly recommended book exploring how you can focus your digital time on the things that matter most. Unlike many minimalism-focused works, Newport goes into great detail in what to do with the space & time that you free up. My full review/reference (as well as links to my experiment and a podcast I recorded for Resilient) are found here.
  • Educated by Tara Westover: an incredible memoir of someone who grew up in an abusive, anti-intellectual, conspiratorial home environment without any real schooling (home or otherwise) and went on to earn a prestigious PhD.
  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: an informative book about psychedelics and their applications in medicine.
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell: incredible narratives and insights of how things can go wrong when we talk to strangers, along with some (admittedly light) recommendations on how we can change structures and systems to do better.
  • Offscreen edited by Kai Brach: I read issues 17 through 19 of this large print-only magazine in 2019, and often found value in the interviews, perspectives, and recommendations. “Offscreen is an independent print magazine that examines how we shape technology and how technology shapes us. “
  • Southern Horrors by Ida B. Wells: this classic and important work is a reminder of how fear, power, and violence were (and still are) wielded to subjugate people.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg: All about the various factors that affect habit formation and change. You can see my full reference and review here.
  • Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson: the folks at Basecamp continue to bring countercultural guidance on simplicity, focus, agility, and sustainability for operating an organization.
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek: over and over, Sinek reminds us that our why is what people are drawn to, and that the rest is rationalization.
  • Ultralearning by Scott H. Young: a collection of tips from Young’s ultralearning experiments and research.
  • Technopoly by Neil Postman: a book of criticism that asks more questions than it is prepared to answer, but still an incredibly important work to grapple with. I read this as part of Strangers Book Club, which I highly recommend.
  • The Oz Principle by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman: this is a book about continually asking the helpful question “What else can we do to rise above our circumstances and get the results we want?”
  • Food Rules by Michael Pollan: short summaries of Pollan’s research on eating, including many tips on how not just what to eat.
  • Open Borders: the Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith: a collaboration presenting the case for open immigration. Unfortunately heavy on the economic benefits and light on the ethical rationale, but still a useful work to bring exposure to this important topic.
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier: this is a good companion to Digital Minimalism, detailing some of the reasons that most social media is manipulative and unhealthy for people and our digital ecosystem.
  • Ancient Civilizations of North America by Edwin Barnhart: an excellent background on the history of North America before modern colonists.
  • Heretic! by Matthew J. DiStefano: the title refers to judgments aimed DiStefano, due to theological interpretations rooted in love & justice instead of fear & hate.
  • Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans: originally called Growing Up in Monkey Town, this memoir shares Evans’s tale of reclaiming her faith back from a fear & judgment paradigm.
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: stories about how ideas and behaviors gain traction.
  • The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond: a look at how humans are and aren’t different from the “other chimpanzees”.
  • The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace: an informative, judgment-free journey with solid grounding in psychology and behavioral science.
  • The World in 2020 by the Economist: this is Economist’s yearly comments and predictions for the coming year.
  • The Pioneers by David McCullough: this book by the acclaimed historian covers those who colonized the Ohio Valley.

Further Notes

For a review of my fiction read in 2019, see here. For 2018 books, see here.

For the Goodreads overview of my reading, see here.

Note: this post has affiliate links. I am linking to things I truly enjoy, and have not been paid or pressured to recommend any of them.