Category Archives: Favorite Books (Annual List)

BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Reading is critical to what I do, but more importantly, who I am.  My reading is divided into various categories: reading related to a writing project, reviews and/or interviews with authors, and other miscellaneous books that are significant to be conversant on.  There are many classics that I have on my list (yes, I keep many lists), so books coming off the presses today are scrutinized pretty closely.

As I get older (58 now), I find myself rereading books which have made the biggest impact on me.  This means that I am getting pickier with my new selections with each passing moment which is not a bad thing.

Instead of giving a large list, let me mention seven books all published in 2016 which I found quite good.

The very best for the entire year was a three way tie with MAKING SENSE OF GOD by Tim Keller, SILENCE AND BEAUTY by Mako Fujimura, and AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY by John Kaag.

So here are my seven favorites in no particular order…

SAVING THE BIBLE FROM OURSELVES: LEARNING TO READ AND LIVE THE BIBLE WELL by Glenn Paauw.

https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Bible-Ourselves-Learning-Read/dp/0830851240/ref=cm_rdp_product

My interview with the author is here:

Saving the Bible from Ourselves

AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY by John Kaag

https://www.amazon.com/American-Philosophy-Story-John-Kaag/dp/0374154481/ref=cm_rdp_product

John Kaag is a philosopher, but don’t let that scare you away from his writing, at least not with this book.

American Philosophy: a Love Story is remarkable twin tour of a long abandoned library and the human heart. Kaag is a candid diagnostician of his own interior life with all its complexities and contradictions.

I’ve been reading some of Kaag’s interlocutors for some time, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson. As a Christian, I disagree with much of what Emerson wrote, but he makes me wrestle with important issues in ways that make me a better Christian…at least a better thinking Christian.

Kaag is vulnerable about his own personal struggles and path to happiness. Like Emerson, I don’t agree with Kaag’s philosophy of life, but reading about his pilgrimage to greater sanity was fascinating and time well spent.

This is a brilliantly conceived and exceedingly satisfying read. If scholars like Kaag wrote more books like this one there would be a whole lot more interest in philosophy!

I think a wonderful movie could be made from this book…at least a well-crafted documentary.

PURSUING HEALTH IN AN ANXIOUS AGE by Bob Cutillo

https://www.amazon.com/Pursuing-Health-Anxious-Gospel-Coalition/dp/1433551101

Dr. Bob Cutillo has written a book that Andy Crouch describes this way: “Perhaps once a year, if I am lucky, I encounter a book that addresses a supremely important topic and does so in a supremely helpful way. This is such a book…”

Cutillo is a medical doctor. He serves in various capacities: as professor at a major university, teaching at an evangelical seminary, and providing compassionate care to those on the margins of society.

How should we understand health? Well, it depends on your frame of reference. If you believe that Jesus has conquered death, then you will answer that question very differently from those who don’t.

Cutillo is not just a “science guy,” though he certainly has great competence there having earned his MD from Columbia University. Cutillo also loves great literature and philosophy. He brings in wonderful insights from wide-ranging readings of great books. This offers a real model of responsible and competent integration. I’ve read other books that seek to integrate from various disciplines, but few pull it off as well as Cutillo.

MAKING SENSE OF GOD: AN INVITATION TO THE SKEPTICAL by Timothy Keller

https://www.amazon.com/Making-Sense-God-Invitation-Skeptical/dp/0525954155

My review can be found here:

Tim Keller’s Newest

DEEP WORK; RULES FOR FOCUSED WORK IN A DISTRACTED WORLD by Cal Newport

https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/dp/1455586692

Here is my interview with the author:

Cal Newport: Focused Success in a Distracted World

MEDIEVAL WISDOM FOR MODERN CHRISTIANS by Chris Armstrong

https://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Wisdom-Modern-Christians-Authentic/dp/1587433788/ref=cm_rdp_product

My interview with the author is here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/07/16/medieval-wisdom-for-modern-christians/

SILENCE AND BEAUTY: HIDDEN FAITH BORN OF SUFFERING by Makoto Fujimura

https://www.amazon.com/Silence-Beauty-Hidden-Faith-Suffering/dp/0830844597/ref=cm_rdp_product

I am writing a book on how to trust God in the midst of suffering. Recent reads were Endo’s Silence followed by Makoto Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty. I made over 200 marginal notes in the pages of Endo’s Silence. It is an extremely important work for Christians to digest deeply.

Usually a commentary on a great book may be helpful and illuminating, but hardly of the caliber of the classic. This book may break this regular rule.

Fujimura’s reflections on Endo’s classic work are simply stunning. Silence and Beauty is a wonderful companion to Endo’s Silence. In fact, I would argue that Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty is indispensable to reading Endo’s work. Silence and Beauty takes you into the heart of Japanese culture and rituals. It helps you understand why Christianity is such a threat to its cultural ethos.

Silence and Beauty is wonderfully conceived and full of compelling insights. Highly recommended.

 

 

FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2013

 

Well, 2013 was another great year for reading.  In fact so good, I could not whittle down to the typical top ten list, so am cheating a bit with my favorite fifteen.  At the end, I will offer my top two for the year.  So in no particular order, here are my picks:

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  Take a great chick flick (the kind most guys would grudgingly admit they liked), mix in great writing, candor, intellectual stimulation, spiritual insight, and humor.  Voila you have Surprised by Oxford.

Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga.  My interview with the author is coming soon.

Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs.  My interview with the author is coming soon.

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson.  My review can be found here: 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/08/31/saturday-book-review-matthew-lee-anderson/

The Taming of the Shrew (reread) by Mr. Shakespeare along with commentary from Brightest Heaven of Invention by Peter J. Leithart.

Sacred Scripture, Sacred War by James P Byrd.  My interview with the author is coming soon.

College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco.  

Heaven on Earth by R. Alan Streett.  My interview can be found here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/16/alan-streett-heaven-on-earth/

Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf.  I have read many books on “a theology of work.”  This one has fresh insights and is very well done.

Fateful Lightning by Allen C. Guelzo.  A master historian, especially on the Civil War, shows us a scholar at the height of his powers.  Much to ponder in this absorbing book.

Why Study History?  by John Fea.  My brief review is here:

http://www.twocities.org/?p=2965

The First Thanksgiving by R. Tracy McKenzie.  I am glad that McKenzie is beginning to write for the wider public.  May God bless his efforts!  My interview with the author is here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/09/saturday-book-review-thanksgiving/

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis.  Years ago, I read the author’s Pulitzer-winner, Founding Brothers.  This book is similar with its great story-telling and solid scholarship.

Ravished by Beauty by Belden C. Lane.  Even if you thought you knew much about the Reformed faith, this book will surprise you.  My review can be found here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/06/15/david-g-moore-i-guess-im-not-a-calvinist/

Contending for the Faith by Ralph C. Wood.  My interview can be found here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/12/21/why-careful-reading-matters-to-christians/

Well, as things turn out, and it is pretty odd since I was not consciously thinking of it, my top two books are the first and last on this list: Surprised by Oxford and Contending for the Faith.

 

 

FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2012

 

Since this blog just launched last month, I wanted to offer my ten favorite reads (or rereads in one case) of 2012:

The Pilgrim’s Progess by John Bunyan.  The older I get, the more I am rereading.  Since Spurgeon read it 100 times, I ought to try at least ten!

If you are intimidated by older language, try this edition as your “gateway drug” to Bunyan:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080246520X/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_3?pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0800786092&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1SYPQTZ8EX07HTGBE5JR

Booked by Karen Swallow Prior.  This is the kind of book which is sad to finish.  Wonderful writing coupled with insightful truths about the human predicament. I will either be interviewing the author later this year or doing a larger review here.  Stay tuned.

http://www.amazon.com/Booked-Literature-Karen-Swallow-Prior/dp/0692014543/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

On Conan Doyle by Michael Dirda.  One of our youngest son’s friends is Muslim and so has never experienced Christmas.  He wanted to do the whole exchanging of gifts, etc.  This is the book he got me.  A terrific book with fascinating background on how Conan Doyle developed his characters.

http://www.amazon.com/On-Conan-Doyle-Storytelling-Writers/dp/0691151350/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Struggling with Scripture by Brueggemann, Placher, and Blount.  A short book which helped me clarify once again why the more liberal position on Scripture is problematic.

http://www.amazon.com/Struggling-Scripture-Walter-Brueggemann/dp/0664224857/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

RetroChristianity by Svigel.  I did a review of this terrific book over at Jesus Creed.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/05/19/saturday-book-review-2/

http://www.amazon.com/RetroChristianity-Reclaiming-Forgotten-Michael-Svigel/dp/1433528487/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Believing Again by Lundin.  I am very interested in 19th century America and Lundin is a master of that period.

http://www.amazon.com/Believing-Again-Doubt-Faith-Secular/dp/0802830773/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand by Phares.  An entertaining look at the toughness of nineteenth century ministers who preached the gospel on the wild frontier. Ministers who think they have it rough today might want to give this book a read. Non ministers will equally enjoy this lively and interesting book.

http://www.amazon.com/Bible-Pocket-Gun-Hand-Frontier/dp/0803257252/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Green Leaves for Later Years by Griffin.  Poignant, insightful, and well-written reflections on the process of aging. Aging, as Chuck Swindoll famously said, is not for wimps. This book is a good arsenal in the battle so one will be wise and joyful.”

http://www.amazon.com/Green-Leaves-Later-Years-Spiritual/dp/0830835652/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Our Triune God by Ryken and LeFebvre.  The authors provide a concise, yet responsible overview. For those wanting a good primer on the trinity, this is a good place to start.

http://www.amazon.com/Our-Triune-Three-One-ebook/dp/B004V9IFRG/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Love Works by Manby.  It sounds like a rather goofy and naive book, but it is actually quite good. Unlike the vast majority of business books, this author and successful business leader shares his own failures.

One quibble: He should have said much more about humility. And he seems to hold the popular notion that humility is elusive.

Overall, a wonderful book worth reading!

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Works-Timeless-Principles-Effective/dp/0310335671/ref=cm_cr-mr-title