Chapter 15: Agree to Disagree

Agree to Disagree

“What are your favorite books?” he asked.
My friend’s question interested me. But I needed more details.

“Of all time?” I asked. “And, by favorite, do you mean the books which had the largest impact on my life, or those I enjoyed reading the most?”

“Good questions,” he said.

What started as his question turned into a deep conversation. We both loved it. A dialogue about books, about words, about stories, about impact. Portions of the discussion sounded like debates, parts felt like confessions, others seemed like counseling sessions.

We talked about the books we’ve chosen to continue reading through the years. We mentioned books we’ve only needed to read once but were deeply impacted by. We emphasized books where writing styles appealed to us no matter the topic. We told about books that still impact our beliefs and behaviors.

My choices were different from my friend’s choices.

His selections were different from my selections.

Our different opinions lengthened the conversation. They didn’t shorten it.

We talked about books and authors we both loved. Philip Yancey. Mark Rutland. Francis Chan. Mark Batterson. Jon Acuff.

But he had missed out on many of the best. Many books I consider the best.

How could Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek not be one of his favorites? Is that legal? How could he not like, or at least read, poetry? How could he love the writing style of one author who didn’t really write the book that had his name, and only his name, on the cover? How could he say he enjoys reading creative writing while never reading Calvin Miller or Kathleen Norris or Eugene Peterson or Luci Shaw or Walter Wangerin?

His thoughts about me? I had the wrong view of some of his favorites. I had not read some of the best books of all time.

Who was right? He was.
I was.
We were.

The conversation motivated us both to read books we suggested to each other. We told stories about the books rather than only arguing our cases. We revealed how the books impacted us rather than only shaking our heads in disbelief at what the other selected.

We listened. With respect, interest, and kindness, we listened.

I know. I know that for the topic of agreeing to disagree, “What are your favorite books?” isn’t as divisive as politics or religion or economy or war. Though I am very sensitive about my literature selections and though to some people the reading of certain books seems to equal salvation or dam- nation, my conversation with my friend about books doesn’t match the modern topics of division.

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  1. Who do you not want to be around? Why?
  2. What does that say about you?
  3. What should you do about that?
  4. Do your beliefs come out in your love for others?


Solomon reminds us: “A word in season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23). Chris Maxwell is a master at delivering “a word in season.” His eye catches things that others miss. He shows us where to plant our feet, where to grasp and hold on. In this book, Chris offers invaluable counsel for all who feel disoriented, for all who need help in keeping their balance on the uneven surfaces of life.

Russell Board

Regional Director for Continental Asia, IPHC World Missions Ministries