This month’s featured book blogger is Adam Shields from Bookwi.se. Adam is one of the most prolific bloggers I know and my top go-to blogger for coverage of nonfiction Christian books.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. What are some of your interests outside of blogging?
I don’t have time for a lot of interests. I am a stay at home Dad for a 19-month-old son and a daughter turns 3 on Sunday. I work as a non-profit consultant about 10-20 hours a week on the side. Primarily I do program evaluation and database management for a large after school program in Chicago. Reading is my interest, and writing is the method of processing the world around me. Because of my tight time constraints, I tend to consume about half of my book as audiobooks that are in the background as I work or play with kids or drive.
Give us some insight into your psyche. What’s your Myers-Briggs type?
I am a highly introverted INTP. I like the Flag Page personality test. My wife and I led a couple of newly married couple’s small groups through it. It is more about what motivates you. I rate nearly off the charts on trying to make peace with people around me.
Probably what you should know is that I do a lot of my processing of ideas by writing about them. So everything I write is really an attempt to understand what I really think.
How did you discover the blogging world and what made you decide to start a blog of your own?
A friend of mine, John Saddington, started blogging more than 15 years ago. When I met him he was working for my church to help them with digital strategies, but soon after we met he and a group of friends created a company to develop WordPress themes. They really got me started with my initial WordPress theme and helped me get started. One of the guys from that company, Chris Ames, was the one that came up with my blog name, Bookwi.se. (I initially started blogging with MrShields.com because my wife started MrsShields.com for her students and I bought both domain names at the same time.)Meet #BookBlogger @AdamRShields + read about his favorite books and more!Click To Tweet
I started blogging in the fall of 2009 seriously and at my high point I was posting 90 or so posts a month with free and sale book, book reviews, ereader reviews or tips and other related content. When my daughter was born I cut back a bit. When my son was born I gave up doing free and sale book posts and cut my book review posts down to about 80 or 100 a year. Now I post about 15-18 times a month, primarily book reviews.
I hate it when people ask me what my favorite book is–such an impossible question! So give us your top five…or ten.
This really is an impossible question. I tend to answer in top five books in a sub-category when others ask me. I have reviewed around 1200 books on my blog since 2009.
Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor, is everything right about memoir. He tells his story. He shares his passion. Tells us what he has learned and where he has struggled. But most of all he shows the wisdom that age can bring, if we are paying attention. (His book Practice Resurrection is just as good, but more theological, less memoir.)
Stardust by Neil Gaiman – I am a huge fan of Gaiman. He tells fairy tales for adults. The type of books that are really about what it means to be human, but have a great story. These are books about more than just their top-level story. And Gaiman is one of the best audiobook narrators out there. (Neverwhere is just as good.)
Lila by Marilynne Robinson – This is the essential book on grace. As a Christian, I think the easiest thing for Christians to forget is grace. I don’t know of anything better than this story to illustrate reciprocal grace in marriage, grace in Christian faith and the love of a parent. It is a slow book. More about ideas than story. But such a beautifully written one. (Miroslav Volf’s Free of Charge is a great non-fiction book on forgiveness and grace.)
Absolute Truths by Susan Howatch is the last book in the Starbridge series. The series is about Church of England clergy from the 1920s to the 1970s. This was a very important series to me. I read them the week I turned 40. I have read them all again at least once. They are such a good reminder about life not being about short term, but long term growth. And growth is not a straight line. We make mistakes, we hide from our pasts, we put on pretty faces (to ourselves most of all.) The books can be a bit melodramatic. But I read both for stories and ideas. And this is a series full of ideas that doesn’t skip on the story.
Time for some either/or…
Mac or PC? Mac
Tea or coffee? Coffee (lots of it, usually espresso based.)
Print or ebook? Ebook and audiobook. Rarely print, except for graphic novel.
Fiction or nonfiction? Mix of both. Too much of either leads to distortion of how we think about the world.
Witty short story or epic novel? Neither. I have really loved epic novels in the past. But I don’t have time for them these days. Most books I read now are in the 200-500 page range. I traditionally do not like short stories. I want to get immersed in a story. Short stories just don’t have the length to get me fully invested.
If you could share a meal with any famous person, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Depends on the day. Eugene Peterson is a spiritual hero of mine. He was the standard suburban pastor that was devoted to just one church throughout this career. Or maybe Glen Hansard from Swell Season and The Frames. I saw Swell Season in concert and it was by far the best concert I have ever been to. I don’t know if he would be a great dinner partner. But he was such a great entertainer. Or maybe Carolyn Weber. She is author of the excellent Surprised by Oxford. One of the most beautifully written books (a memoir) I have ever read. She is just a few years older than I am. We have conversed on twitter. There are authors that you just want to know because you feel like you know them already. Anyone that can construct a sentence like she can, I would love to meet in person.
I interviewed Carolyn a few years ago and she is completely lovely.
Has there ever been a time when the film was better than the book? (It’s okay; you can be honest. We won’t judge you!)
Maybe The Princess Bride. I love the book. But the movie is pretty much perfection. And if you have not read the making of book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden is great. Especially as an audiobook.
I really love Cormac McCarthy’s writing. But I have a hard time reading it because the books are so brutal. No Country for Old Men is an incredibly faithful adaptation from the book. But still somehow the movie captures his sparse writing style while still ending up slightly better as a movie than a book. (But the book is still excellent.)
What are some of the best 2016 releases you’ve read this year so far?
A few years ago I stopped accepting review copies and just started reading what I wanted to read. I just looked. Of the 89 books I have read so far this year only 17 of them were published this year. And frankly all of them except for one or two were excellent.
My initial best books of the year list would have to start with Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura and Philip Yancey. I read it right when it came out this year. It is a reflection on the Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence (Martin Scorsese has a movie version of that novel coming out in December). But it is also a reflection on Fujimura’s own vocation as an artist and a cultural history of Japan. If I had not really been impacted by the book Silence I would probably not have picked it up. But it is so good. I plan on reading it again right before the movie comes out.
I am not a huge graphic novel guy, but the three-volume graphic novel biography of Civil Rights leader John Lewis is one of the best examples of nonfiction comic book format that I have ever read. I can’t think of a better example of matching a story to format. The third volume in the trilogy came out in August and I devoured them.
I am a theology guy by interest and education, so NT Wright’s new book on the resurrection, The Day the Revolution Began and the stats-heavy (also my background by training) The End of White Christian America by Robert Jones are both well worth reading.
I am also a huge fan of the Hamilton musical. I have tickets to see the musical on Saturday as an early 20th anniversary trip. So I loved reading the Hamiltome.
If you could choose three books you think EVERYONE should read, what would they be and why?
I am very much interested in matching the book to the person. One of my favorite things to do is to talk to someone about what books they have loved in the past and make suggestions for books that I think they would like. There is no set of books that I think really will speak to everyone in the same way.
I read books to think about how others are different from myself. Some of the best fictional examples of that are Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. From the nonfiction side, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Between the World and Me by Tan-Nehisi Coates and The Civil War as Theological Crisis by Mark Noll or Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Morality by Richard Beck.
Lightening round! Name your favorite…
Song: I am obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. But when I am stressed or overwhelmed, etc. I listen to Philip Higham’s version of the Bach Suite for Cello. But my favorite new album for 2016 is Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book.
TV show: I don’t really watch tv (at least tv that is not oriented toward 2-year-olds. Octonauts is currently my favorite of my daughter’s favorite TV shows.)
Podcast: I almost always listen to Morning Prayer (Book of Common Prayer) from The episcopal church in Garrett County. The Book of Common Prayer should probably be on my list of best books. But I also almost always listen to the Slate Political Podcast, Christianity Today’s Calling podcast (interview show), Christianity Today’s Quick to Listen (issue discussion) and Seminary Dropout (author interview).
Comfort food: Is it cheating to say a latte in the morning and a bourbon at night? I love food. But I primarily love trying new things. So if I have to choose a food it is ‘the new things I have never had before.’
Fictional crush: I have no idea. Part of what I love about characters in books is that they are in love with who they are in love with in the books. Clare in Time Traveler’s Wife would not be the same person if she were theoretically in love with me.