The last couple of weeks have been frenetic. I have a couple of projects that have been consuming all my free time. One of them is a book deal which is in the final stages of negotiation–I’ll announce details here when it’s finalized. The other is going to be a nice surprise for everyone, but I can’t say what it is just yet.
I’m leaving tomorrow for a writing conference, but thought I’d toss out this question: What are you reading lately?
I’ve just finished reading THE SHACK, by William P. Young. It’s been riding high on the bestseller lists for months, and I finally decided to read it. I had been holding off because I had heard a couple of things about it that gave me pause. First, I had heard that the level of writing craft is not that good. Second, I had heard that some people have “theological qualms” with the book.
I have now read the book and I was blown away by the story. Writing fiction is about giving your reader a powerful emotional experience. THE SHACK delivers that in spades. It is also one of those books that may well affect you for the rest of your life. I think it’s fair to say that it will do that for me. It has already made a very significant difference in my life. A good story can do that.
As for craft, I’d say that THE SHACK is not going to win any awards from writing teachers who love rules. I am not much bothered by that. The purpose of those pesky rules is to guide the author in giving the reader a powerful emotional experience. Period. THE SHACK delivers. To heck with the rules.
As for those pesky “theological qualms,” I can see where some people might have issues. Truth to tell, I have never, ever read a book that I agreed with 100%. There is probably nobody alive I would agree with 100%. I saw some things in THE SHACK that I didn’t agree with. This had nothing to do with the impact the story had on me.
The two storylines that have delivered the goods to me most powerfully in this decade are:
1) The Harry Potter series
2) THE SHACK
All of which reminds me that my friend Doug Bolton has ten autographed copies of THE SHACK that he is giving away on his web site to anyone who signs up for his free e-newsletter. I met Doug last summer at a writing conference. He has a web site on dealing with depression and is running this promotion until April 15 (Tax Day, which drives depression for a lot of us).
So if you want to be entered in Doug’s drawing for an autographed copy of THE SHACK, take a look at his web site at www.DougBolton.com.
OK, I need to go get packed to fly out tomorrow. Leave a comment and tell us what you’re reading!
Peg Phifer says
Thanks for this post, Randy. You’ve sent the final confirmation that I should read The Shack. I’ve had the book for several months and have waffled about reading it for the same reasons you cite.
I just finished reading “Salty, Like Blood” by Harry Kraus, M.D. Now you talk about a powerful emotional experience!
Next, I’m about to start on Kathi Macias’ new release “My Son, John” from Sheaf House. Judging from the blurb on the back cover, this promises to be yet another P.E.E.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
So far so good, although I haven’t had much time to read it yet so I’m not exactly sucked in.
Well I have gotten another good review for The Shack, now with some interesting little things that bible college students would laugh at or might have a problem with. Well I am putting it on my list to read, as for what I am reading is a 10 book series by D.J. MacHale Pendragon I am book 8 with book 10 coming out in May and need to get through the last two by then.
The writing is good with an emotional experience I would say is near that of Harry Potter, not exactly on the same level but very close to it.
I am currently reading The Iliad, Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I knew that The Shack was popular, but I don’t know a whole lot about it. It sounds really good!
Doug Bolton says
I want to thank you Randy for the support you have given me. I was very fortunate to meet William Paul Young in person. I had time to sit and talk with him. I am posting what we talked about on my site that Randy mentioned in his blog above.
I will have three posts sharing the ocnversation that Young an I had. It was an incredible experience.
Adam Heine says
Just finished Robin Cook’s Critical, which was bad enough to spawn this post.
Before that I read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. That was a lot better, though I know a fair number of Christians who would be pissed off by it (note: they’re also the type who would never use the phrase “pissed off,” even if they are).
Now I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s First Meetings, which I’m much more excited about.
Kim Miller says
You echo my thoughts about The Shack. I kept thinking, ‘that would not get past my editor’. And having three degrees in theology means I sift things pretty carefully.
But it was not the writing that got me, nor did the theology hold me back (which I found quite refreshing). What kept me reading was the deep humanity of the character, and the confrontation with his ideas about God. That journey clicked with me.
Beside my bed at the moment is Kevin Leman’s “The Real You”, and Rachel Hennessy’s “The Quakers” – it’s about a murder not far from where I live. Oh yeah, no theology in the title, it refers to people who experience an earthquake together.
Carrie Neuman says
I’m in the middle of Prince Philip: An Informal Biography by Basil Boothroyd. His mother was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever read about, and I love Philip’s devotion to his family. I also like that he always says what he’s thinking and doesn’t worry about how other people are going to take it.
I’m apparently on a biography kick at the moment. I recently finished Victoria’s Daughters and Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece and I have Edwina Mountbatten and Eleanore of Aquitaine waiting for me when I’m done.
J Hugh Thomas says
I’m re-reading Dune, always enjoy the dense mixture of politics, action, ecology, and mythology.
I just realized that I’ve let life absorb my reading time again. That, and working in a video rental place, I’ve been watching alot of cinema.
Lois Hudson says
I agree with both points and PEE of Randy’s assessment of THE SHACK. As for picturing God in such earthy ways, Gordon MacDonald (Christianity Today) suggests it is no different from David describing Him in Psalm 23 as a shepherd – the dirty, grubby, lowest of society in his day–yet a caring provider. The images simply give us a new way of relating to the persons of the Trinity.
I just finished DEMON by Tosca Lee, which I heard about on this blog. With excellent writing craft, it does for the dark side what THE SHACK does–provides a new way of thinking about, and understanding. I felt myself almost empathizing with the demon, even while recognizing his evil. Loved the term “mud people” which is what the demons called humans.
Currently about halfway through THE LAST JIHAD by Joel C. Rosenberg. Exciting and fast reading, but for me, too many characters and too many “alphabetical” government agencies, national and worldwide, to keep track of. Maybe that’s why our government is so mixed up!
I was at the library and randomly grabbed a book-on-tape from the shelf to try out. I thought it would be great to listen to a book on the long drive to and from work.
I happened to grab “The 5 year plan” by Philip Kerr. I do not recommend it. I should have read the online reviews before selecting it; but I’m glad I did try a book on tape. It’s great to listen to something while in the car.
I wonder if THE SHACK is out on tape yet (or CD)…
Melissa Stroh says
Getting ready to read Scarlet by Stephen R. Lawhead. Since reading Byzantium and Hood, he’s got me hooked. Lawhead has a real way of taking you into another realm!
Kat Heckenbach says
If you want emotionally powerful reading experiences, pick up “Demon: A Memior” and “Havah” by Tosca Lee. Those are the two most amazing books I’ve read in a long time.
I just finished “Kiss” by Ted Dekker and Erin Heally and it was awesome.
Right now, I’m fixin’ to start the YA fantasy “Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary”–book four in the Fablehaven series, which I love so far. It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s a great read and very imaginative. The writing has gotten better with each book.
andie mock says
Just finished “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce, an inspirational reread. Joyce does get very obscure in places that I tend to skip then comes out of the haze blazing trails of glory. Great descriptions.
Jackie Strange says
Hi Randy, I rejoice with you on your projects. Count among your gifts the gift of teaching. I read The Shack when it first came out. I didn’t quite how to feel about it. God’s blessings, Jackie
Maria Tatham says
People who really like to read and read a lot have recommended THE SHACK. One is a friend who’s a mature Christian. I’ve been scared off by the writer’s ‘tampering’ with the Trinity. To this reader, meddling with that is off-limits for a Christian writer. I feel that writers often enter where angels (and demons) fear to tread. So I haven’t read it. I’m tired of people ‘tampering’, whether in fiction or real life.
I got a third of the way through DEMON. The author is gifted and engaging! I was unhappy and quit the book because the demon was a too-sympathetic characterization. I had just finished reading Malachi Martin’s WINDSWEPT HOUSE and his book about demon possession, and Jenkins’ THE RISING (about the birth and early life of the Antichrist), and Dekker’s ADAM, so perhaps I’d had enough of naked evil. But my feeling about both THE SHACK and DEMON is that the writers are entering where they shouldn’t (as Christian writers). Some things shouldn’t be fictionalized (the Trinity). We don’t even understand the Trinity! A writer (even Lewis–SCREWTAPE) shouldn’t ‘humanize’ demons. They’re entirely alien, completely unlike us, and don’t deserve empathy, only a kind of pity. Lord help us!
Just finished Louis Bayard’s historical mystery THE BLACK TOWER. He’s the best writer I’ve read in years. But his plot twist was a poke in the eye and depressing, and his off-the-cuff dismissal of Christianity is just more of the same old stuff. I’m glad I didn’t pay for the book, though I enjoyed a lot of it and would love to be able to write as well as he does. At the end, his protagonists are in the process of descending into complete degradation.
I’m now reading Weis & Hickman’s BONES OF THE DRAGON.
Deanna Price says
I haven’t read that book yet but have been thinking of getting it.Right now I’m not reading anything I just finished Rainbow’s End by Irene Hannon.
Andra M. says
I wondered when you would add another entry. I haven’t read “The Shack”, and based on the teetering piles of books I have to read already, it will be a while.
Right now I’m reading “House of Dark Shadows” by Robert Liparulo. It’s a YA novel which I normally don’t read, but I won them in a contest. I’m enjoying it so far. Plus it’s good to read books outside a chosen genre.
Sheila Deeth says
You waited even longer than me to read it! I was worried the “theological issues” might just be hype, but I really enjoyed the story. So did my 80-year-old Mum. We both loved Harry Potter too.
I just finished reading The Time Paradox (the sixth book in the Artemis Fowl series). The Artemis Fowl books are one of my secret indulgences ;P And for anyone who hasn’t heard of them, its about a 12yr old evil genius mastermind and his encounters with the fairy world (and these aren’t your ordinary fairies, we’re talking high tech… to give an example, one of the main character’s works for LEPrecon (Lower Element Police Recon unit). Anyway, I love the twist on fairies, the humor is great, and the science is pretty sound.
I think you’d enjoy them Randy, Eoin Colfer’s humor is just up your alley. Its a series I can’t wait to read to my kids when they get older, especially my sons, they’ll get a kick out of them 🙂
I just finished reading Deadlock, by Robert Liparulo. He tells very intense stories, but follows the rules at the same time. 🙂
Tonya Root says
As I have since elementary school – I am reading anything and everything I can get my hands on – cereal boxes included! I can’t focus on just one thing. I am reading Jazz Age Stories, a collection of stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, several magazines, Relativism by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, and a bunch of poetry in honor of national poetry month. (Most specifically a poem a day in my email from Poets.org and a TON of poems by fellow poets at Robert Lee brewers blog Poetic Asides in his Poem-A-Day Challenge.)
I will have to check out The Shack soon!
Lynn Rush says
Have fun at your conference, travel safely! The Shack was pretty powerful. And I agree, to heck with the rules on that one. Holy Moly. 🙂
I just read The Voice by Bill Myers. Fantastic (but then again, I read/write supernatural stuff….)
My next is, Adam, by Ted Dekker. LOVE his stuff.
I read The Shack not too long ago, and agree with Randy’s comments, both on the emotional and theological side.
With John Updike’s obit, I’ve been reading my way through the Rabbit 4-book series, since I haven’t read Updike till now, other than one or two New Yorker articles over the years.
Some adult content, but a great read nonetheless (I’m within a few pages of finishing book 3 “Rabbit is Rich”, set in late 1979). So far I like the 2nd book (Rabbit, Redux) the best. In the first book “Rabbit, Run”, he was trying perhaps a little too hard to be literary.
The series at this point provides a great time capsule, hitting the highlights prevalent at the turn of each decade starting in 1960. And some wonderful writing. And his observations of family relationships on the mark.
M.L. Eqatin says
I started the Shack. It’s still kicking around somewhere, and I mean to finish it, but I cannot say the story grabbed me. But then, I’m not much of a contemporary fiction reader, and although the theology doesn’t bother me, it didn’t seem that revolutionary, either.
Although I just finished Tiger in the Shadows by Debbie Wilson, and it was excellent! The writer certainly did her research, but didn’t weight the story down with it.
I am reading Legacy, because it has been recommended several times as the best novel on Elizabeth I out there. And for fun, I am concurrently reading Lazarillo de Tormes, which is a lot like a much earlier Huckleberry Finn, just to see what kind of fiction was available to Elizabeth for her lighter moments!
Karen D'Amato says
It’s been a long time since I posted on anyone’s site. But I do pray for travel mercies for everyone traveling to the writer’s conference tomorrow.
Along with reading the back of sinus medicine boxes, I’ve started to read Jim Bell’s Revision and Self Editing, only to come to a dead stop. In his introduction, his section on reading gives a good eight step process on plots and structure that I never did when I read his book by the same title.
Jim suggests to round up five books in your genre to get a good feel for rhythm of flow of the writing. Since I write in historical fiction, I pulled Transgression, Secret Life of Bees, Gilead, and A Painted House. Being one short, I’m now reading Jester by Patterson (his only historical romance). Of all the books, I find Jester the easiest to read simply because of the short chapters. You can read a chapter in between sneezes. Only thing is, with a Patterson novel, how can you tell how much is Patterson and how much is whoever else he’s writing with? Or, does it matter?
See you at Mt.H and I promise to wear a mask.
I’m taking two literature classes, does that count?
Read Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” yesterday and some TS Eliot the day before that. I have “Kiss” and “BoneMan’s Daughters” (Ted Dekker) on my reading list for that free time I hope to have after this school semester.
Ginny Jaques says
I agree with your Shack analysis, Randy. We did an adult SS class on the book and it spawned a lot of good discussion. I’ve ordered a DVD of a 90-minute interview that Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, CA did with William Young. He’s got an incredible personal testimony that adds smack to his shack. (good word choice,eh?)
I’m reading several books now, as usual: 1) My first Harry Potter (his latest), which I’m trying to get impressed with. No luck so far but I’ll keep doggedly on. 2) A Journey of Life, by Sharon Boothroyd (Life Cycle Books Ltd. Toronto) It’s a beautiful collection of stories of young women who come through the Crisis Pregnancy Centre she works in. And 3) Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias. Can’t get more diverse than this, I’m thinking.
I love the blog. I’ll be back.
Adam Heine says
Maria Tatham wrote: “…writers are entering where they shouldn’t (as Christian writers). Some things shouldn’t be fictionalized (the Trinity). We don’t even understand the Trinity! A writer (even Lewis–SCREWTAPE) shouldn’t ‘humanize’ demons. They’re entirely alien, completely unlike us…”
I can understand where you’re coming from, Maria (when I think about it, I think this is one of the reasons I never liked the Left Behind series). At the same time, shouldn’t one of the purposes of fiction be to explore those things that we don’t understand?
Maybe it’s not that these authors are trying to say, “This is what the Trinity/demons/Tribulation are like,” but rather, “What if they’re like this? What would that mean?”
Mary Andrews says
I just finished reading Magic,Mensa & Mayhem by Karina Fabian. (Since I’m participating in her blog tour, I thought I should give it a go.)
It’s a story about a noir dragon, and a nun from across the interdimensional gap who are assigned to watch over a bunch of faerie-folk at a Mensa Convention. It was successfully humorous and very cleverly written.
I had to read it on my computer but if I had a Kindle like Randy (you lucky dog, you), I’d like to read another of her books called Infinite Space Infinite God. It’s a Christian Science Fiction anthology containing tales of religion in space.
I just finished the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine which is filled with powerful short stories or novellas. I used to subscribe to it and picked it up while on vacation in Baltimore. I forgot how much punch you can put in 20 – 50 pages.
Gerhi Janse van Vuuren says
I have just finished reading The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks. A competent novel but nowhere near my top ten list. At the moment I am reading Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual by Rita Mae Brown. I like her style and she has been saying some things nobody else talks about. I am also reading The Crafty Art of Playmaking by Alan Ayckbourn. He has some brilliant things to say about writing dialogue.
Next on my bedside table to read is How to enjoy writing: A book of aid and comfort by Janet and Isaac Asimov. Looking forward to that.
Doug Bolton says
As I read down through the comments, I see that many of you haven’t even read, The Shack, I think it is a must read for a Christian and even more a non-Christian.
I told you in a earlier post that I personally met William Paul Young, The Author of The Shack. I had a nice sit down chat with him, and he shared some things that never have been brought out about the book.
For one thing the shack itself represents Young’s heart. He said to open the door to that shack was very hard, but it is a healing process.
He went on to name who some of the characters were in real life. I will share those in my newsletter.
What do I mean by the newsletter? Randy gave me a nice plug in his post above about a promotion I am doing on my author website. I am giving away 10 copies of The Shack that have a personal note, and Young’s autograph in them.
If you are one of those who said you haven’t read the book yet, here is your chance to not only get one free, but have it autorgraphed too.
I am not going to plug where to get them here. I hate people who do that on my site. Go up to Randy’s post and see the link he has provided for you.
Pam Halter says
I just finished The Lord of the Rings (for about the 12th time) and have started Fantasy and Your Family by Richard Albanes. It takes a closer look at LOTR and Harry Potter, as well as the occult and what is good fantasy and what should be avoided. Right now, I’m on the part about Tolkien’s life. Very interesting. Did you know it took him 12 years to write LOTR? Guess I don’t feel so bad now about taking over 2 years on my first fantasy novel. 🙂
I read a lot of fantasy…and right now I’m reading high fantasy that is just…let’s just say it’s terrific. I’m re-reading George RR Martin’s, “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (it begins with a “Game of Thrones”) Let’s just say it is one of the most brilliant books I have ever read. The scope and majesty of it are just amazing.
I’m just finishing Caleb Carr’s “The Angel of Darkness”. A friend turned me on to “The Alienist” not long ago and I found that a fun read, so when I saw there was a followup I couldn’t resist. Next is his Sherlock Holmes story “The Italian Secretary”. That’s around working 60 hours a week and trying to write my own novel!
The Shack sounds kind of, well, I’m not sure. Reviews on Amazon range from over a thousand affirmations of faith to much needed exposure for non-believers to, and this is a good one, “The Shack is Satan at his worst. Blending a little truth with a lot of lies. Do not be fooled.” Reviews like the first two examples usually make me skip a book. I don’t usually enjoy those types of stories. Reviews like the last one, the ones where someone’s fundamentalist-sounding feathers are all ruffled, usually make me sit up and take notice – I like stories that challenge my views of the world – but in this case I’m just not feeling it.
Adam Heine says
Destiny: The Song of Ice and Fire saga is amazing, and it just keeps getting better right up until the part where he hasn’t finished book 5 yet 😉
MFA Collective Magazine says
“Self Editing For Fiction Writers,” a really great book. Should be read every year.
I just finished the Twilight Saga, I was curious and got hooked. They are definitely for girls of all ages, so I can see why guys aren’t particularly interested in the series. Before I got sidelined by Stephenie Meyers, I was catching up on all of Loraine Snelling’s books. I only recently discovered her and am plowing through her many series as I can get my hands on the books.
I’m reading several things, as usual: Richard Kennedy’s delightful “A Boy at Hogarth Press”, Samuel Pepys’ Diary (somehow, XVIIth minds always seem to work on a different track, to me…), and Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust”. Plus some random Henry James, because I’m forever reading/re-reading some random Henry James. After that, I have a stack of biographies awaiting me, and O’Brian’s “The Hundred Days”.
Doug Bolton says
I am reading Christina Katz’s “Get Known Before the Book Deal.” It has a complete guide on how to get known before you even send your book to the publisher. It has assignments, that I did, which gave me valuable information about who my audience should be, and what niches my writing fits into.
I would think it would a must read for everyone writing a book.
Doug Bolton says
I am doing a different post to again thank Randy for his plug in his E-zine. He stated that I have several copies of the book, “The Shack,” which has a personal note, and William Paul Young’s autorgraph in it.
You could have a chance to win one of those books by going to www.dougbolton.com and subcribing. There will be a drawing from all of those people who have subscribed to win one of the books free. (I hate doing plugs, and I am sure you hate seeing them, but this is a pretty special deal because of the author and how hot his book is.) His book has been # 1 on the New York top ten best selling list for over 45 weeks straight.
Doug Bolton says
I want to personally thank Randy again for his plug about getting a free book called “The Shack,” with William Paul Young’s personal note and autograph in it. It has been the # 1 best selling book for 45 weeks straight. There will be a drawing to win one of ten copies held on April 15th. Nice day to win something, don’t you think?
Go up to Randy’s E-zine to see where to go to do that. I do not think it is right to plug a website in a reply. It isn’t kosher.
Bonnie Doran says
Thanks, Randy, for the post about Doug Bolton’s Web site. I’d like to check it out.
The book I’m currently reading is Ben Bova’s The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells. Lots of good info. I prefer science fiction when I read for pleasure. I just finished the 7th book in the Stardoc series by S.L. Viehl.
Unpublished (Writing Fiction) Guy says
I am midway through Kazuo Ishiguro novel, The Unconsoled. I recently read one of his other novels, When We Were Orphans. I am enjoying it so far. This particular novel reads a little bit like the Trial by Franz Kafka, in there is a good bit of ambiguity regarding what is going on and the relationships between people. In The Unconsoled, however, the main character is not accused of a crime, but a musician playing at some big event in an unknown town.
I just read Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight series. Very disappointed. In fact I bought the fourth and final book, Breaking Dawn, I got to page 14 and put it down for good. I’m with you, Harry Potter is my all time favorite story! My friend is reading The Shack right now. I think I’ll go get it today. Thanks for the heads up! Love the blog!
I’m currently not reading at all (except the theories of things I need to know for the final exams).
But I’ve got a whole list of to-reads in the summer. (And also a whole list of to-watch).
I’m still waiting for my Twilight Saga in english (I’m dutch myself). And I’m about to read a book written by an author I spoke to last week on a fantasy fair.
Currently I’m totally addicted to a television show called Ghost Whisperer instead.
Too many books–I don’t know how people read multiple books at the same time! I’m a book review blogger, so I’m working on Higher Hope by Robert Witlow for Thomas Nelson. And then I saw In Praise of Stay-at-Home-Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and had to read her. She’s probably one of my favourite nonfiction authors. I love her no-nonsense approach and sense of humour. Every SAHM should definately read that. Any woman should read it, actually. It’s good. 🙂
Here, Kitty Kitty by Jardine Libaire. Amazing.
I’m probably a little late with this, but oh well. I’m currently reading Wicked. It’s interesting and fresh. I’ll have to pick up The Shack. I’ve heard good things.