What’s on Your Shelf?

A series of interview questions that dig into my reading life.

What’s on your nightstand right now?

I am an extremely eclectic reader and have dozens of books waiting for attention.

In fiction I’m currently reading Run Program by Scott Meyer a science-fiction story of a newly developed artificial intelligence program that “gets out” of the lab and is now running loose on the Internet – with all the computing power of a massive server farm but the mindset of a six-year-old boy. (I should be done reading it tonight.) There are about 50 TBR (to-be-read) novels in a pile. Thrillers, science-fiction, fantasy…they are my mind-candy…a way to relax at the end of a work day.

In non-fiction it is a mix of theology, history, biblical studies and work:

The Pietist Option by Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie
The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church by David John Seel
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry
You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side by Orly Lobel
Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible
by Mark Ward
The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East by Eugene Rogan
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction by Bryan M. Litfin
Confessions by Augustine (new translation by Sarah Ruden)
The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ by Arthur Michael Ramsey
The Message of Galatians by John Stott (will be teaching Galatians soon)
Acts: Witnesses to Him by Bruce Milne (one of a dozen on Acts as I teach through it)

Books for Lent (starting February 14th):
A Way Other than Our Own: Devotions for Lent by Walter Brueggemann
The Seven Last Words from the Cross by Fleming Rutledge
Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels
by Heidi Haverkamp

What are your favorite novels of all-time?

Dune by Frank Herbert
Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card
Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Source
by James Michner
Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
The Rookie by Jerry Jenkins

What are your favorite non-fiction books of all-time?

Knowing God by J.I. Packer
Green Letters by Miles Stanford
Lectures to my Students by Charles Spurgeon
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
How to be a Christian Without Being Religious
by Fritz Ridenour
Loving God by Charles Colson
Making Sense of Suffering by Peter Kreeft
Disappointment with God
by Philip Yancey
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman
Iococca: An Autobiography by Lee Iococca
Leadership is an Art by Max DePree
The Young Evangelicals by Richard Quebedeaux
Doctrines of the Christian Religion
by William W. Stevens
In Understanding Be Men by T.C. Hammond
Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

What’s one book you wish every writer would read?

The Christian Writers Market Guide 2018 Edition by Steve Laube (I know the author…!!!)

Meanwhile, I have two very large book cases full of books on writing and the publishing industry. Those books have shaped my journey as an editor, teacher, and agent. I had to learn the business by doing and reading.

Novelists should at least read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King.

Non-fiction authors should read both Elements of Style by Strunk and White and On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

Plus anything by Joanna Penn or James Scott Bell.

What are you learning about life or work as you read?

That I have a lot to learn. Period. The vastness of God’s creation makes the pursuit of knowledge and imagination a well that never runs dry.

Your Turn

What books would you add to the list? We all like to hear what other people are reading. How would you answer the questions in this interview?

16 Responses to What’s on Your Shelf?

  1. Avatar
    LK Simonds February 12, 2018 at 5:33 am #

    Lordy! Love reading about your tastes, and getting a chance to write about mine. Thank God for Goodreads or I’d have been wracking my brain.

    On my “nightstand” (print plus kindle & audible apps) right now.

    The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
    Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
    Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
    Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike
    Raymond Carver Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

    What are your favorite novels of all time?

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
    The Hours by Michael Cunningham
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    American Pastoral by Philip Roth

    What are your favorite non-fiction books of all time?

    West with the Night by Beryl Markham
    Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
    The Liars Club by Mary Karr
    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
    Mere Christianity by CS Lewis
    On Writing by Stephen King
    A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

    What’s one book you wish every writer would read?

    Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

    What are you learning about life and work as you read?

    About life, the same lesson Scout Finch learned by seeing her neighborhood from Boo Radley’s front porch. About writing, what works and what doesn’t, and (hopefully) how to write fiction that works.

    Thanks, Steve!

  2. Avatar
    Vanessa Burton February 12, 2018 at 7:30 am #

    Love all the different genres!

    Currently next to the bed:
    Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (Christmas present)
    Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Have to read it before the movie comes out!)
    Storm Siren series by Mary Weber (Prep for the Realm Makers Conference!)

    Favorite novels of all time:
    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    1984 by George Orwell
    The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Mayer
    Jane Austen everything!!
    Sherlock Holmes!!!
    Agatha Christie!

    Favorite non-fiction books:
    The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy
    The Book that Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
    Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt
    and Stephen J Dubner

    A book every writer should read:
    The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (I had to read this for Dual Enrollment English and it has stuck with me ever since!)

    What are you learning about life and work as you read?

    I’m learning a lot about perseverance and completion. It’s very easy to give up and move on to something else when people think you’re writing as a cop out for doing something else. But by ready different novels and knowing that most authors have probably gone through the same thing is encouraging!

    Thank you for the post! I love talking about books!

  3. Avatar
    Lois Freeman Easley February 12, 2018 at 7:47 am #

    Thank you for this very helpful bibliography!!

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 12, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    On the nightstand – “A Bucket Of Sunshine” by Mike Brooke.

    Favourite novels – “Round The Bend” by Nevil Shute and “The left Hand Of God” by William E. Barrett.

    Favourite non-fiction – “Xin Loi, Viet Nam” by Al Sever and “House To House” by David Bellavia

    I wish every writer would read Nevil Shute’s “Slide Rule”, his autobiography on combining a working life as an engineer with a nascent writing career.

    What am I learning? That pain, fear, and death itself are irrelevant in the face of duty, that the harder I become, the longer I’ll last, and that vulnerability is great for support groups but lousy for fighting cancer.

  5. Avatar
    Carol Ashby February 12, 2018 at 9:47 am #

    Steve, I always find it fascinating what the folks here choose to read. Here’s some of the books at the top of my reading list this week.

    About to read for fun:
    Tessa Afshar: Bread of Angels
    Roseanna White: A Song Unheard

    For spiritual deepening:
    Johh Stott: Life in Christ: A Guide for Daily Living
    A.W. Tozer: Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews

    For research for my WIP and my history website:
    Pliny the Elder: Natural History
    Philip Matyszak, Ph.D. (from Oxford): Gladiator: The Roman Fighter’s Unofficial Manual

    I know the last two seem odd, but if you’re going to have a character kidnapped and sold into the arena, you have to know what gladiators ate and many other details of daily life when not competing if you’re going to write deep POV. Plus I’ll soon be posting Pliny’s recipe for barley polenta, both Greek and Italian style, as part of a new “Eat Like a Gladiator” page at the Roman history site.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 12, 2018 at 10:29 am #

      Book choices are never odd. They are interesting.

      I love to see my client Roseanna White on your TBR pile.

      And to see the A.W. Tozer book there. I represented that book and a bunch of other Tozer titles edited by James Snyder. Dr. Snyder has carefully transcribed over 400 hours of audio by Dr. Tozer that had never been available before. The one you’ve mentioned was a series on the book of Hebrews. Amazing to have them available now over 50 years since Tozer passed away.

      • Avatar
        Carol Ashby February 12, 2018 at 10:46 am #

        I love all things Tozer I’ve ever read. It was exciting to find something new.

        Roseanna is not only a wonderful writer. She’s a superb cover designer. She’s doing all the covers for my Light in the Empire Series, and what I ask for isn’t easy. How do you make a gorgeous cover featuring the “ugliest man in the Empire?” She nailed it!

  6. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris February 12, 2018 at 10:16 am #

    For some reason, I didn’t get an email update of your post this morning. I wonder if this was why more people haven’t commented.

    Two non-fiction books I can’t recommend highly enough for women novelists, both for strengthening personal relationships and for insight into motivation and conflict, are For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman.

    For Women Only delves into a series of questionnaires with men admitting things like how they usually feel like impostors, the common urge to provide, and how their visual nature works. It’s shocking how different they think, and even more incredible is that we women are as clueless about how they think as they are clueless that we are clueless.

    The Birth Order Book does the same thing. Jerry Jenkins said he once had lunch with Kevin Leman, and he asked him if all that birth order business really works. The server approached and took their order, and Dr. Leman struck up a conversation and then asked him if the server was the baby of his family.

    “How did you know that?”

    Dr. Leman laughed and did his Sherlock-style explanation.

    Anyone who reads either of these will find their entire life becomes a series of “aha” moments.

    God bless!

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 12, 2018 at 10:26 am #


      Odd that yours did not hit your inbox. Maybe check your spam folder? It went out to all our email subscribers at 5am EST this morning.


  7. Avatar
    Bob Boeck February 12, 2018 at 10:41 am #

    I think some must reads for aspiring writers like me are: two books on writing, one of which was recommended by James Scott Bell: Techniques of the Selling Writer and Creating Characters: How to Build Story People. Both by Dwight Swain. Two other books for spiritual growth and being challenged: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul and The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink. The latter books is, in my opinion, quite deep and makes one think through what the scriptures say.

  8. Avatar
    Frenchy Dennis February 12, 2018 at 1:42 pm #

    My favorite Fiction: Julie by Catherine Marshall (all time), anything by Jody Hedlund, The Innkeeper’s Cottage by Judith Klassen, Ben Hur by Wallace, The Mayflower Bride by Woodhouse (new),

    Favorite non-fiction: John Adams by McCullough, Civil Was by Ken Burns, etc., U.S. History books (any written before 1925) all things by Tozer, All things by Spurgeon.

  9. Avatar
    Tracey Dyck February 12, 2018 at 2:26 pm #

    As a nosy bookdragon, I’m always curious to see what’s on people’s shelves! I’m currently rereading The Candlestone by Bryan Davis. It’s part of a series that meant a lot to me as a teen, so it’s fun to return to those characters. Coming on my TBR stack is Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams and By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson.

    In nonfiction, I’m (slowly) working through a collection of John Maxwell books on leadership and the workbook for Ted Dekker’s Creative Way writing course. But college textbooks currently take higher priority, so topics like marketing, stats, and macroeconomics are what’s floating through my brain these days. Once the semester is over, I hope to read Quiet by Susan Cain and Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Oh, and Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland as well!

  10. Avatar
    Tracey Dyck February 12, 2018 at 2:27 pm #

    Ahem, that should’ve read “coming UP on my TBR…”

  11. Avatar
    Meg MacDonald February 13, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    Let me preface by saying that I have been away from home for the last five weeks, staying with my mom during a difficult time. I have a ton of stuff that I left at home (including The Journal of Beatrix Potter), but I seem to have amassed quite a bit here (in a addition to what I brought with me).

    Currently Reading (nonfiction)

    Talking to Alzheimer’s–Claudia Strauss
    How Not to Write—Mittelmark and Newman (it’s hilarious, by the way)
    Glass and Amber—C.J. Cherryh

    I just downloaded Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World and also have Morgan Busse’s Tainted lined up

    These fiction titles have crept into my room:

    The Three Musketeers—Alexandre Dumas
    Watership Down—Richard Adams
    All Creatures Great and Small—James Herriot
    Stella and the Priest or The Star of Rockburn–Laurie Loring (a book from 1874 found in my elderly mother’s library)
    And a pristine copy of the first anthology I sold a story to –doesn’t look like mom ever even cracked it open. LOL

    Nonfiction piling up includes:

    The Bipolar Child—Papolos and Papolos
    Talking to Alzheimers—Claudia Strauss
    Alzheimers From the Inside Out—Richard Taylor
    The Forgetting (Alzheimers: Portrait of an Epidemic)—David Shenk
    You may notice a theme here…

    Favorite fiction including some childhood favorites:

    Journey to the Center of the Earth—Jules Verne
    The Coldfire Trilogy–C.S. Friedman
    The Wife of Martin Guerre—Janet Lewis
    Beautiful Chaos—Gary Russell
    A Midsummer’s Night Dream—and most anything by Shakespeare (all hail the Bard!)
    Earthsea Trilogy—Ursula K. LeGuin

    A favorite nonfiction title is A Purpose Driven Life—Rick Warren

    I have a library full of research books on just about every subject you can name.

    Books that should be read (aside from obvious ones already mentioned):

    A Purpose Driven Life—Rick Warren
    The Emotion Thesaurus—Ackerman and Publisi (okay, not so much a book to read as a book to use)
    How Not To Write–Mittelmark and Newman

    What have I learned in recent years? In the immortal words of Christopher Robin “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

  12. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D February 14, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    Thanks for all of those great suggestions. I am reading (for the third time) the book that Steve recommended on writing deep viewpoint. It is amazing.


  1. Writing Links 2/19/18 – Where Genres Collide - February 19, 2018

    […] https://stevelaube2.wpengine.com/whats-on-your-shelf/ “I am an extremely eclectic reader and have dozens of books waiting for attention.” I know how that goes. I have SO many books to read still. Right now, I’m reading Blood Moon by John Sedgewick, a story about the Cherokees; The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz; Strange Weather by Joe Hill; a YA anthology; a Createspace how-to by A.C. Flory; My Wish is Your Command; Daughter of Smoke and Bone Laini Taylor, and Fairies: A Hidden History by Paul Andruss. Along with craft books and Christian books. […]

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