“God On The Beach – A Story of Faith, The Power of God” by Michael Volland.  With my love of surfing and for Cornwall, a couple of folks had mentioned this book to me over the past year or so.  I was interested to read it.  Whilst having gained greatly from experience of short-term mission trips in my younger years, I do have concerns about sending in task-forces versus a commitment to follow-up and discipleship.  How do you ensure someone is supported later in life once they have inevitable doubts or struggles?  Like many, I also have issues with people stopping me in the street trying to sell me stuff or beliefs or to get me to sign up to support a charity, even if that is well intentioned or an organisation I am already a member of.  Does that sound like a sceptism of evangelism full stop?  It’s not meant to, I think I’ve just become more aware of the role of relational evangelism built up over time whilst recognising there is a place too for shorter-term initiatives.

This book had me hooked.  The author shared many of these concerns and actually just wanted to go surf at the outset and was wrestling with whether to actually join up with the beach mission team.  He was initially timid, uncomfortable and riddled with doubts and fears.  Much like me, really.  The he really began to see God at work.  Some amazing tales are retold as well as plenty of more ordinary accounts of spending some late nights on the streets and beaches of Newquay in Cornwall amonst those who were often the worse for wear from alcohol and pills or other drugs.  Knowing Newquay and being able to visualise many of the spots and locations mentioned also helped me connect with this.  I was amazed and encouraged by some of the stories that unfold.  It’s so easy to look at people or cultures and think they have no desire to know God – to know forgiveness, to know love, to have a fresh start and the slate wiped clean.  How wrong our perception can be.  This was a very easy, quick and great read!

“The God Who Changes Lives (Third Edition)” by Mark Elsdon-Dew.  Having just completed assisting at my first ever Alpha Course, one of the leaders gave me this book at the end.  Alpha was great.  It was refreshing to reconsider what the tenents of our faith are.  It was interesting to hear the thoughts, questions, word views and experiences of those who attended.  Whilst I love to hear stories of people’s lives changing, after a few stories I found this book becoming formulaic and almost just a big plug for Alpha and Holy Trinity Brompton church.  I know that’s not what was intended and each story told is a miracle – but, reading them in succession dulled the experience for me.  By about the half way point, I was determined to finish the book, but hungry to complete it so that I could get onto something else…

“Hope and Other Urban Tales” by Laura Hird.  They say you should never judge a book by its cover.  I bought this at the Edinburgh Book Festival on the basis:  I love the word “hope”; it had a Banksy stencil on the front; it was set in Edinburgh; it was published by a book company who are a client of mine; Laura Hird was receiving all sorts of accoldades.  It’s a long time since I’ve read short stories and there is a certain skill in pulling the reader in so deep in so few pages.  That said I was uncomfortable with the graphic and smutty sexual stories that began to unfold. I kept reading in the hope that there would be something different in the next story…By the time I’d got half way through I just felt annoyed and unclean and frustrated.  I decided to stop reading it.  In fact I didn’t want anyone else polluting their minds so rather than give it to a charity book shop or pop it in the recycling I actually burned it!  Now, I’ve NEVER done that before… 

“Just Walk Across The Room” by Bill Hybles.  The penultimate study our little small group collective undertook was around this book and some study materials based upon it.  I found it hugely helpful.  The book expands some of Bill’s natural encounters and reflections.  It’s really gripping and really encouraged me about how to share my faith without becoming someone I’m not.  It was so encouraging to deconstruct some notions and hang-ups I had of “evangelism” or “selling Jesus”.  The stories in here are ones that I can identify with and which inspire me.  Helpful tools on rethinking our stories and descerning appropriate next steps – I thoroughly recommend this book.

41b-9qktsAL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA115_“Riding The Magic Carpet: A Surfer’s Odyssey To Find The Perfect Wave” by Tom Anderson.  My Father-In-Law gave me this for part of my birthday.  Whilst I knew it probably just involved a quick search on Amazon for a book related to surfing, I was really touched. 

It transpires that this is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in ages.  It’s part travelogue and I learnt loads about cultures and surfing amidst lots of entertaining stories and observations.  It’s an incredably well written and engaging read and not one that would only appeal to surfers.  Tales from Wales to Thurso and the Orkneys through France, Spain, Indo, South America and, eventually, to J-Bay in South Africa.  A really great read…


41LbdQdIBiL__SL500_AA240_“Jesus Wants To Save Christians” by Rob Bell.  They say that history repeats itself.  What have we learned?  This book explains the importance of specific places: Egypt; Sinai; Jerusalem: and Babylon.  It talks of the symbolism of the Exodus – of freedom from slavery and the rise of empires – of the cyclical nature of things.  It’s a mandate to become what church should be and to stop participating in the things that Jesus came to free us from.  It’s about what our vision is about.  Is it to build new churches and programmes and materials or is it to care for the poor?  It’s about faith and fear, wealth and war, poverty, power, safety, terror, Bibles, bombs and homeland insecurity.  A challenging read that brings it all home.   


41QKVR2M9JL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA115_“Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller.  I raced through this loveable collection of short chapters.  Observational wrestling with Christianity, the church and our own place within it all.  Uplifting, honest and profound.  I cannot recommend this enough.



51jOnBKpeGL__SL500_AA240_Goodbye 20th Century.  Sonic Youth and The Rise Of The Alternative Nation” by David Browne.  I thoroughly enjoyed David Browne’s expose of the lives of Jeff and Tim Buckley, “Dream Brother” about 7 years ago.  Once again an extremely well researched book on the career of Sonic Youth, the New York art scene, the rise and fall of grunge and a band sticking true to their artform and constantly pushing the boundaries.  Funnily enough, a relatively normal set of often bookish 50 somethings.


51cQqTxvVkL__SL160_AA115_“The Progressive Patriot” by Billy Bragg.  Interesting exploration of Billy’s family tree, a sense of English-ness in a multi-racial society and the serach for belonging and national identity.  I particulary enjoyed his comments on The Clash, Rock Against Racism, the Baptist movement and his concerns with the rise of the BNP.

97807535124561“Billy Bragg – Still Suitable For Miners” by Andrew Collins.  I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Collins’ two books of his own childhood and student days –  “Where Did It All Go Right?” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” – the latter of which has one of the funniest stories of an awe-struck art student meeting their musical heroine when he tells of trying to chat with Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.  This biography of Billy Bragg is totally engaging and oozes with the measure of the man – straight to the point, no nonsense stuff.  If only more musicians were of his calibre.  We saw Billy Bragg play live earlier this year and got a big smile and an “‘ello” as he walked past us on his way to the gig.  No tour bus or entourage – just a small backpack as he entered the venue through the same doors as the rest of us ticket buying punters.  Respect.


“Loveless – 33 1/3” by Mike McGonical.  I didn’t know what to make of “Loveless” when My Bloody Valentine released the album back in 1991.  It sounded wonky and different on each stereo I played it on.  It got rave reviews and I persevered with it and wondered if my difficulty with much of it was the fact I wasn’t on drugs.  17 years on and I still listen to the album with reasonable regularity.  This little book talks at length about what was going on through the recording process.  It gives an insight into the production techniques used and lovingly likens the album to a piece of art in its truest sense.  Yet again, I think I’ll be listening to all those layers of bending, melted, guitars, sampled feedback and ethereal vocals with a fresh set of ears.   Yes, I’m still bummed that I missed MBV play their first gigs in 17 years last summer, but I am glad that Craig B was able to use my ticket and was blown away by them. 

“Nights Of Passed Over” by Mark Kozelek.  This limited edition hardback contains Mark Kozelek of Red house Painters and Sun Kil Moon’s lyrics which read like poetry and love letters.  The preface provides insight into his song-writing techniques and the fact that many images are from early parts of his life rather than the present.  He tenderly explains how many of the songs were written for a lover with whom things never quite worked out.  He earnestly explains how difficult it was to still feel all these things for her and to learn that she was dying of cancer.  Yet when he plays live there are people like me expecting a great performance and emotional connection, when often he is simply recounting songs of his dying muse on the other side of the Atlantic.  At times, presumably, all he wanted was to be back in San Francisco in a comfortable bed and closer to his loved ones.  I see those gigs and expectations in a different light now.

“Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.  Politics for Ordinary Radicals.  Inspired, stimulating and making me energised about the state of the world, the state of the church and how I should react.

Fugazi – Keep Your Eyes Open” by glen E. Friedman. Not so much reading as gazing at the brilliant photo journal of one of the most influential bands in my life.  Glen’s shots capture the energy of the live performances of a band who constantly inspired me about how to live ethically, respectfully and counter-culturally.

“Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner.  A sometimes interesting look at cause and effect by applying economics and linear regression.  Some surprising trends emerge.  What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?  Why do drug dealers live with their mums?  How can your name affect how well you do in life?  The chapter on the drug dealers in particular was mission.

“Hey Nostradamus!” by Douglas Coupland.  A welcome re-read of my all-time favourite book.  I won’t spoil it – just read it. Please.

“Confessions of  Reformission Rev” by Mark Driscoll.  I couldn’t put this down.  I don’t know what to make of this guy.  His story of church planting in Seattle is amazing and he talks a lot of sense.  His stories of spiritual attach made me sit up and appraise things.  He also holds a lot of views with which I would differ hugely and I suspect he wouldn’t change his stance over a coffee or a beer.  That said, it is good to be challenged about what and why you believe certain things.  I would strongly recommend it, although I’m sure it’ll touch a few nerves.  The authors views are not always those of this blogger…

“The Gum Thief” by Douglas Coupland.  True to form – a story of love and looming apocalypse set in the aisles of an office-supply superstore.  As always crammed with sharp observations of the human condition.  A joy to read.

“Bono on Bono” by Michka Assayas.  A hugely revealing set of conversations with a prophet of our times.  This made me see afresh why this man has inspired me so much for over 25 years.

“Sex God – Exploring The Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality” by Rob Bell.  I approached this with apprehension, but saw how we were created as relational and sensual beings and how wonderful that is when treated properly.  Not just a book for those in relationships, but a refreshing read for all of us, wounded and broken as we may be.  Any book with a chapter entitled “Johnny and June” is bound to get my attention.  A chapter called “Leather, Whips and Fruit” made me slightly less comfortable, until I read it and discovered what he was actually addressing…

“The Irresistable Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. This guy’s story is inspiring, deeply conviting and made me question so much of what I accepted about the set up of my life.  Shane describes himself as an author, activist and recovering sinner.  He is a founder of The Simple Way www.thesimpleway.org and walks his talk.  Stories of disillusionment with the American church, his experiences in Calcutta with Mother Teressa and what it is like to meet in house churches with Iraqis as a US Peace Envoy whilst America is dropping bombs audibly outside.  This book is awesome.  What I do with it is a more uncomfortable question.

“Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die or (The Eschatology of  Bluegrass)” by David Crowder with Mike Hogan.  A hugely creative book covering, bluegrass, the soul and death.  This made me realise that I had never really mourned only a few months beofre our church community would mourn deeply and never be the same again.

“The Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell.  This guy has made me see the Bible from a whole new, fresh and exciting perspective over the past couple of years.  I don’t want to put people on pedestals, but I find his teaching easy to sit under.  I am thankful for all he has brought into my life and I consider this man truly annointed to make the Bible come alive, be relevant and to understand things I was blissfully unaware of before.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

“Praise Habit (Finding God in Sunset and Sushi)” by David Crowder.  This is just the best set of devotional readings I have ever encountered.  Way out there in terms of tangents.  David Crowder is a creative genius who has got me excited about my faith again. Read. Think. Pray. Live.


7 Responses to “What I’m Reading.”

  1. 1 bringonthejoy August 2, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Yes, hurry up with Jesus for President please, I’m next in the queue for that one. It’s been on your ‘what I’m reading’ list for far too long!
    Just joking (well sort of), but I am waiting impatiently to get my hands on that book cos it looks so darn good!

  2. 2 the state that I am in August 2, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Oh yeah, that book is SO good. I’ll pass it to you as soon as I’m done.

    It connects with the very heart of me. It gets me excited and frustrated in equal measure. I keep reading a paragraph at a time and just musing and chewing it over.

    We need more people willing to challenge what it means to be a Christian. In fact, as I read it I even wonder if I want to be a Christian anymore. Maybe I just want to be a follower of Jesus. As Rob Bell helpfully stated, “The word Christian is a better adjective than it is a noun”.

  3. 3 bringonthejoy August 3, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I KNOW you keep reading a paragraph at a time and then stop and chew it over. For AGES. I have observed this for quite some time now. Have you observed me tapping my fingers and sighing heavily?!
    I’m glad you’re enjoying it so much, I knew it would be one of those books you’d just love. Still waiting…!

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin August 4, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Getting there with it – read a fair chunk over the weekend. I know I have been AGELES! Good things come to those who wait…

  5. 5 Laura Anne August 5, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I went and sold the last copy to someone at Imagine before I’d managed to buy a copy myself.


  6. 6 thestatethatiamin August 5, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Read it. Bring on the revolution. Was Jesus like Che? What a great question?

  7. 7 bringonthejoy August 13, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    A better question might be “Was Che like Jesus?”.
    Still waiting…
    And maybe LA is joining the queue. Shall we get the library to order a copy or two – apparently they have a public duty to do so, so we could ask and get some great books by Christian writers stocked by Edinburgh Library Services (or whatever the official title is)

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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