Executive Summary

My dad claims to have only finished one book in his lifetime–a Hardy Boys mystery he finished in high school.

It’s not that my dad isn’t smart. He’s just not a reader. He says he never opened his textbooks–he just attended lectures and explained things to his roommates. He’s not sure reading would have done him any good.

He loves information, loves learning, but he reads slowly, laboriously. It requires a huge amount of work from him.

So he finds other ways of getting information. He listens to lectures, podcasts, and sermons. He reads short chunks online. He listens to talk radio discussions of books. He watches the history channel or documentaries.

And occasionally, he has his children read for him.

I have always been a voracious reader. I started reading in kindergarten, and by first grade, I was sneaking out of bed to read late into the night with the light that streamed from the cracked open bedroom door.

In sixth grade, I read Plato’s Republic and had my dad borrow copies of Jonathon Edwards’ sermons from the University Library.

Shortly thereafter, I became my dad’s designated reader.

He’d buy a book, bring it home, present it to me, and inform me that he wanted an executive summary. (This, of course, was after he’d spent dinner times of my entire elementary years attempting to teach me the concept of “summary”–particularly that a summary was shorter than the original work.)

And so I’d read a book and then give Dad the summary. We’d talk about what I’d read, the ideas found within. I’d read a few quotes aloud and he’d ask questions when my summary wasn’t clear.

It was a fantastic teaching strategy–and a way for Dad to read without reading.

The only problem was that since Dad didn’t actually see the book he was “reading”, he sometimes forgot that he’d “read” it. One day, in my later teen years, he brought me home a book, Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare. I congratulated him on his purchase and told him that he now had a copy for himself. I had my own copy–it was one of the first books I’d summarized for him.

After I went away to college, I had other things to do and the habit of reading and discussing my reading with my dad fell by the wayside.

Until one day, I got a yen for the executive summary. I’m not sure how much my summaries enriched my dad’s mind–but I know that it had an indelible impact on me. I learn so much more when I engage the material, when I talk or write about it, when I discuss it with someone else.

So I started writing executive summaries. This time they’re on my blog. And instead of my dad, you are now my unwitting partners in learning.

Maybe Dad learned from my summaries, maybe he didn’t.

Maybe you enjoy my summaries, maybe you don’t.

But I’m gonna keep writing them, because they keep my mind alive.

(Some examples of books I’ve written executive summaries of in the past year include The Cross of Christ, Forgotten God, Unveiling Islam, and Why We Love the Church)