Tony’s Summer Reading – Part 1

posted in: Book Reviews, Tony Thompson 0

A challenge to any church leader is Acts 6v1-4, where the administration of the church is handed over to others so that the leaders could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. I try to set aside time every day to do this, but it is particularly over the Summer that I can give greater focus and time to this. This Summer was no exception. I feel well fed having read 12 books and spent extended time in reflection and prayer. Whilst I recognise that I have a unique role and calling to this as the leader of the church I feel it is worth sharing some of the books I have read and why you might like to read them yourself. That is what I will be doing in this and subsequent blogs.

Two of the books I read were novels. I don’t read many novels; I love doing so but decided a number years ago to ration myself to a couple over the Summer and maybe one at Christmas. My favourite genre is detective novels but whatever works for you I would encourage you to read some novels to relax and inhabit a different world. Novels do this in a different way to TV or the cinema.

I also enjoy history and read 2 history books, both by Margaret MacMillan a Canadian who is a Professor at Oxford University. The first book, History’s People gives pen portraits of historical leaders and draws out what can we learn from them. For example, Bismarck, Martin Luther King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are the focus of one chapter, which concludes

“for all their dissimilarities, the three men were favoured by time and circumstance, each was prepared to seize the opportunities he was offered, and all three shared the key characteristics which made them such effective leaders: they had great goals they wanted to achieve, and they had the talent, skills, and determination to persist and bring their countries with them. That does not mean that they did not make mistakes. All did, but they were able to learn from those mistakes, and most importantly of all, they knew when to make compromises. They managed, for the most part, to avoid the trap that powerful leaders can so easily fall into — and that is the one of thinking that they were always right.”

Another chapter groups together such unlikely leaders such as Woodrow Wilson (president of America during the first world war), Margaret Thatcher, Hitler and Stalin! They are presented negatively and in contrast to Bismarck, King and Roosevelt.

“ALL FOUR LEADERS…….. lived in times that gave them great opportunities, and all four had the inner drive and conviction to seize them. Their successes hardened their self-confidence to the point where it became unshakeable, and it was from that point that they plunged wilfully ahead. The Greeks believed that hubris was usually punished by a dramatic reversal of fortune. Wilson and Thatcher did pay a penalty in the humiliation of political defeat. Hitler committed suicide when it became clear that his dreams to dominate the world had come to nothing. Stalin, alone among the four, did not pay the price for his hubris in his lifetime. But if there is an afterlife, perhaps he has seen the end of everything he worked for with the collapse of Communism worldwide, the end of the Soviet Union, and the dismantling of its empire in Eastern Europe.”

I am challenged by the need to learn from mistakes, make compromises and to recognise that I am not always right. Maybe this is a lesson from history that current leaders could benefit from learning.

A very interesting book, not just recounting history but helping us learn lessons from history. I enjoyed it so much that I then read her major work “Peacemakers Six months that changed the world: The Paris Peace Conference of 191 and its attempt to end war.” More about this in my next blog.


Written by Tony Thompson

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