Episode 13: A Bookish Father's Day | A Family Legacy of Reading with Dr. Bob Roller

On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, I have a special Father’s Day episode for you. That’s right! We are going to chat with my father, Dr. Bob Roller. We’ll hear about the family legacy of reading that inspired him to read as a kid and then led to our tradition of story time at the Roller house. This conversation made me reflect on how I became the person I am today! He’ll tell you more about himself, but in addition to being an avid reader, he’s a writer, a finance professor, and an ordained minister, plus being a loving husband and father.

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Episode booklist (affiliate link) 
Differentiate or Decline book 

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Dr. Roller says his purpose is: “In all I do as an educator and a leader, my mission is to help people to maximize their effectiveness in being who God has called them to be.”

It was such a delight to talk with my dad for the podcast. And it was even more delightful when I realized that it was near Father's Day, and that I could share this conversation with you as part of celebrating this special day.  Blessings to all you fathers and people with fathers today! I know this day can be hard for some and joyful for others, so wherever you find yourself, I hope this episode brought you joy.  

Bob (Dad) and Wanda (Mom) with The Thinker statue at The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art 

One of the topics I wanted to make sure and cover with Dad actually goes back to the first episodes of the podcast where I talked about how I ended up being a bookworm and wanting to do a podcast about books and reading. I was raised in a home where reading was a priority, and that has very much shaped who I am today. I was excited to talk to Dad about all of this. 

"It has morphed a little over time, but the fact of the matter is reading to you girls has been part of your existence from the very beginning."

Apparently, reading aloud to us kids started before I was even born. Then bedtime stories became a routine when we were pretty young, and both Mom and Dad would read them, depending on the day. When Rachel, my younger sister was born, we still did stories, and often it was Dad reading to Laura, and Mom reading to Rachel. Soon Rachel was old enough to join in on family devotion and story time. That happened pretty quickly, when she was two or three. 

Mom has also been a lover of children's books from the very beginning, so she knew what the good books were. Aunt Lynette would send us book recommendations she came across as an elementary school teacher as well.

All the research shows that it is really good to read to your children. But it wasn't just the research that did it. From a young age Dad has been reading himself to sleep, typically enjoying fiction before bed. About this he said, "I think in the back of my mind I knew that reading was a good bedtime ritual. So part of it was just good bedtime management. Get you down for bed, get you read and prayed for, and then hopefully out. There was practical aspect to it. But we also knew that reading opens up worlds of imagination, and reading has an incredible impact on vocabulary skills, and reading sets the stage to do well in academic settings. It was an interesting combination of philosophical and practical reasons. And you know, it works!" 

Reading aloud to his kids. An everyday occurrence at the Roller house. 

I asked Dad what he remembers about being a kid and starting to read. He said, "I think my mother tried to get me to read before first grade, but I wasn't all that interested. I was a little boy and I had little boy things to do. I went to school and they taught me to read. Pretty quickly I became bored with "See Spot Run." I wanted books that engaged the imagination more that. Once I realized I could read things that could involve me in other places, people or thoughts, reading quickly became very important to me." 

By the time he was in second grade, he was reading at a sixth grade level. He worked his way through most of the books available in the elementary school library, to the point where Grandma chose to start taking him to the public library so he could find new books to read. Dad also mentioned reading when he should have been doing other work at school because he was bored. But his statement was, "It was either read or get in trouble. And some of both happened." I understand this! It's probably good I was homeschooled, because I would have gotten in trouble so much as a kid at school. I'm not good at being bored without getting squirrelly! 

The public library is where he discovered the Childhood of Famous Americans series and read as many of those as he could get his hands on. These books have continued to be published over the years, and I remember reading several of these when I was a kid too. We both liked the fact that most of the book really did have to do with the childhood, maybe only 10% at the end telling about what they did as adults. Great for kids interested in history!

Grandma Roller (my great-grandma) was a lover of books and of nice things in general. I'm told she kept good books around her house for the grandkids to read, including the 14 books in the Wizard of Oz series, which Bob remembers reading all of because it was something to do at grandma's house.  Later, Dad read all of these books aloud to us girls during story time.

Dad described himself as a voracious reader throughout his childhood. In middle school he got more interested in science fiction. The Childhood of Famous Americans series let him to read other books about famous Americans. He especially remembers reading dozens of books about Abraham Lincoln, including his autobiography. 

What do you look for when you are choosing books to read? 

Bob referenced three different categories that he tends to read in, and what he looks for when he reads in each of those areas. 
  • Academic books: relevance, clarity, logic, reasonable worldview/presuppositions
  • Christian living: relevance,  not highly theoretical, applicability to real people
  • Fiction: engaging characters, good plot, hopefully something that can't be figured out in the first chapter. More recently, his fiction reading has trended toward Christian fiction with a suspense theme. 
What are you currently reading? 

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills, which is the second book in the FBI Taskforce series. He just finished reading the first of the series, which was Deadly Encounter. We talked about how Deadly Encounter included a highly-contagious virus that was being spread deliberately in a community so that an unscrupulous businessman could set up a company headquarters after buying the real estate cheaply. That theme hit a little close to home due to the fact that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak right now. Dad wasn't sure how he felt about that, saying, "I read fiction to get into another world, not right back to the one I'm in now."  Deadly Encounter also featured a very bright child that reminded Dad of his own kids at times. I mentioned that I just finished reading Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan, which also featured a highly-intelligent child named Vera that reminded me of my younger sister too. 

Books on Bob's all-time favorites list:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - Explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand together. An unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith.

Waking the Dead
 by John Eldredge - An incredible book, one of the only books Dad has read excerpts out loud to Mom unbidden. Contains a "daily prayer for freedom" in the appendix, which Dad has adapted and personalized. In 2020, he has decided to read the prayer out loud every day and it's been incredibly meaningful. 

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - This is a series that was read out loud, one of Dad's favorites and has gone on to be one of Rachel's favorites as well.  

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - Should be on everybody's all-time favorites list, according to Bob. "The Phantom Tollbooth is to the lazy mind what Pilgrim's Progress is to the lazy soul," is Dad's favorite endorsement of this book.  Dad's favorite line from the Phantom Tollbooth is when the two kings had told Milo that there was something they needed to tell him but they could not tell him until he came back. The one said that the quest was impossible, and the other said, "It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't know it's impossible."  I like the part where they jump to Conclusions and then have to swim back. 

 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein - A science fiction classic that has stood the test of time. Technology, interspace intrigue, important relationships between the characters. It's a good read and still in demand today. 

The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis (Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandra, That Hideous Strength) - A sci-fi series that is important to Dad, it was recommended to him by his parents, he read it aloud to us, and now Rachel has written a book on it. 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey - "One of those books I really need to read again about every 5 years." 

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge - All about systems thinking, impactful on one's mental paradigm 

Books Laura Recommended to Bob:

If  I Run series by Terri Blackstock (If I RunIf I'm Found, and If I Live) - A Christian suspense series that Grandma Roller read and recommended to me. I totally devoured this series and they were very good. I think Dad would enjoy it! He has read the Restoration series by Blackstock. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - Since Dad just read a suspense book about a contagious disease spreading and our experience of COVID-19, I think it's an interesting observation of how fragile the world we know it is and what's important. This might be a little unnerving to read right now. But the longer it's been since I read this book, the more I appreciate it. In light of current events it seems insightful. "A lot of things don't seem as weird as they used to," Dad says. 

Kindred by Octavia Butler - This novel is a mix of sci-fi and historical fiction that I thought Dad would find fascinating. A black woman from the 1970's gets pulled back in time to 1815 to save a young man from dying. Living in Antebellum Maryland for a time, she has to make choices on how to survive and deal with the situations she's facing. Her husband also accidentally gets pulled back at one point, as a white man his experience of the time is completely different. They both found it very easy, but also very hard, to conform to the norms of the time. They were shocked both at how hard it was to adjust and how easy it was to accept the paradigm shifts. Thought provoking and relevant. 

Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel - I got to visit Anne Bogel's home for the launch of this book in March. She wrote an applicable guide to not overthinking. When we spend time overthinking, we are not focused on what would bring us joy or being productive. Practical tips with a tone that I love. Both Bob and I can be accused of overthinking, so this book is a good thing for both of us. 

Long Way Gone by Charles Martin - A modern retelling of the story of the prodigal son. Beautifully told. I heard about the author on Annie F. Downs' That Sounds Fun podcast episode 133. He also wrote What If It's True: A Storyteller's Journey with Jesus, The Mountain Between Us, When Crickets Cry and many other books. 

Books that Bob Recommends to Laura:

The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek - Book on economics that talks about the challenge of any type of planned economy, which Hayek says leads to serfdom. This was back in the time when socialism was popular. A good read.

All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love  by John Eldredge - Dad picked up this book at the Mardel bookstore in Kansas City last year. Talking about the meaning that comes into the world we live in because of what the world to come is going to be like, and that in the world to come all things are made new. Dad found it interesting that Eldredge said most of the things that he has read about heaven made him not want to go there. Fascinating and well done.

Out from Egypt series and Cities of Refuge series by Cossette Connilyn - Dad learned about these series of books from a fellow Bible Quiz official at a meet in Dallas who knew the author. These are Christian historical fiction novels. Out from Egypt is set just after the Israelites left Egypt and during their time in the wilderness. Cities of Refuge are set during the conquest and time of the judges in the Bible, which is a setting not written about often. Cities of Refuge were cities to which those who had accidentally killed someone could escape and be protected from the avenger of blood. These books bring the periods of time to life. Engaging characters, good plot, plenty of suspense, meticulously researched.

Dr. Bob's writing: 

Differentiate or Decline: Competitive Advantage and Strategy for Private Higher Education (co-written with Brett Andrews and Henry Migliore) - Written to look at the fact that private education is facing some distinct challenges. The book discusses if an institution of private education is going to survive, they are going to have to figure out who they are and what they do best, and then capitalize on that. It has several strategic steps that institutions can take to make themselves more competitive. Several institutions have found it to be helpful.   

21 Methods of Biblical Faith-Learning Integration (published in the Journal of Biblical Integration in Business) It has been used by lots of different universities to help their faculty members learn how to make connections between the Bible and their area of teaching. "A lot of academic writing tends to be stuff that very few people read, but this has been an article that has gotten a lot of traction and has actually been a lot of help to people," Dr. Roller said. 

Dr. Roller also has a book that is a work in progress, current title is "Building the Kingdom: How Pastors and Businesspeople Can Work Together" - As someone who is a business professor and a pastor, I am looking to help bridge the chasm to figure out what matters to the others and learning to work together to help the Kingdom." There is no question that there is a need for the book, the challenge is getting it written.  He's hoping to make some progress on it this summer, while school is out. 

Me at age eleven (center) and some of my Bible Quiz teammates, with Dad as our coach. 

I knew that reading and writing has been quite the generational legacy, but this interview really drove that point home for me. Reading and owning lovely books was very important to Great-Grandma Roller. Dad was raised in a house where books were important. His dad's home office was walled with books and his mom is an avid reader. She's still reading books in large print font on her iPad today. Dad fell in love with reading at an early age. He then passed on reading and writing to his daughters. 

We also talked about the importance of interspersing heavy and fun reading. Dad, me and Rachel all take this approach. Dad said  and has always put an emphasis on reading things for fun, wanting to make sure that the heavy reading he has to do for his career isn't able to take the joy out of reading for him. Reading something difficult followed by something light seems to be a healthy way for us to conduct our reading life. A good book helps you identify with a protagonist, whether it's a "hard" or and "easy" read, they take you somewhere other than where you are. There is always something to learn, especially if books are well done. We talked about The Chronicles of Narnia as an example of "children's books" that are enjoyed just as much by adults. 

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  C.S. Lewis.

 Thanks so much for listening! (Or reading!) With lots of literary love from my library to yours, have a wonderful day.


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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