Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 11 Books from 2008

Below are the top 11 books that I read in 2008 and recommend you consider reading in 2009. The list is varied, with books from about every major genre except chick lit, comic books, and travel guides. Genre of the books reviewed is in blue-bold. The list of the remaining 41 books is in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

1. Jack: C.S. Lewis, his Life and Time by George Sayers – C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and biographies are my favorite type of book. Probably my all time favorite book is his auto-biography Surprised by Joy. This bio, Jack, by one of his former students (and lifelong friends) helped shed light on much of Lewis’ writings and on some of the confusing statements he made in SBJ. Wish I would have read it years ago, soon after reading SBJ.

2. UnChristian by David Kinnaman: A very important non-fiction book for all Christians to read. Kinnaman, who now runs Barna research, uses surveys to try and understand how Christians are viewed by the broader culture. The results are not pretty.

From Publishers Weekly: Younger generations (late teens to early 30-somethings) believe Christians are judgmental, anti-homosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered. Rather than simply trying to do a PR face-lift, Kinnaman looks at ways in which churches' activities actually may have been unchristian and encourages a return to a more biblical Christianity, a faith that not only focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it. (Thanks to Tim Casteel for the blurb).

3. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – probably the most gripping book I’ve read this year with one of the more fascinating plots. I could not put it down - literally read it over a weekend. This Novel is the story of a Russian state police member whose eyes are opened to the tragedy of the fear machine he has helped perpetuate. This leads him to question everything – even the basis of his relationship with his wife. Framed for a crime he did not commit, he is banished to a distant city on the Siberian railroad to assist the local police. There he works to solve the mysterious gruesome deaths (and the details are rather gruesome) of young children in cities along the rail line. Loosely based on the story of Russia’s most notorious serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo.

4. The Swastika and the Cross by Fredrick Grossmith – AMAZING memoir of the Nuremberg chaplain who ministered to the Germans standing trial for WWII war crimes. Reviewed here.

5. On the Mortification of Sin by John Owen: Teachings from one of the most prolific and challenging Puritan authors on how Christians should view sin and live in light of our fallen state. He unpacks The King James of Romans 8.13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (i.e. put to death) the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” How does one put to death the deeds of the body? What does that mean? Owen attempts to give answers to this difficult question.

6. Brave Companions by David McCullough : McCullough is my favorite history author, and this comparatively short book, by his standards, gives a glimpse into the lives of more than a dozen key figures who have shaped American culture. I previously reviewed the book here:

7. Practical Religion by J.C. Ryle: This is the best spiritual disciplines book I’ve ever read. Though written in the late 1800’s, Ryle addresses issues that have hindered Christian growth since the ascension of Christ. I started reading this book off and on in the mornings in 2004. When I hit the half-way point early this year, I could not put it down and blasted through the rest to the end. It offers much encouragement and challenge to persevere in the midst of a hostile culture.

8. I am a Man of God by Chris Beasley: A friend sent this to me (it is self published and can only be purchased here). It is a 30 day devotional for men. I do not agree with everything in the book, particularly with chapter 3, but I really appreciated his message and writing style. I think many men would find this work challenging, fun to read, and appealing. Beasley writes in a way that lets you know he is deeply committed to the spiritual health of the reader. He really cares about men learning to live the abundant Christian life.

9. The Starfish and the Spider by Brafman & Beckstrom: Nonfiction/Business: Why were the Spanish able to conquer South and Central America with such ease and yet could not make headway against the Apaches? The same reason that Starfish replicate when cut apart: a starfish has no central nervous system (as opposed to a spider) that can be crushed and killed. The concept has great implications for the modern church, which often elevates one personality as the primary growth plan, faltering when that person fails or moves on. Instead a ‘viral’ organization can grow and multiply regardless of what happens to any individual cell.

10. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes: A short work by a Puritan that turns the stereotypical image of harsh, relentless, religious zealots on its head. Sibbes teaches on us that God is not a harsh task-master, rather he is one that cares deeply for our spiritual health and nurturing, and will work in our lives to bruise, but not break us , in an effort to sanctify his children. Based on Isaiah 42.3 “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”

11. FallingWater Rising by Franklin Toker – This book is a biography of a house, the legendary home built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the woods of Eastern Pennsylvania. This book described the merger of two men seeking fame through the design and building of this house. The saddest part is the emptiness of their lives in the midst of their immense talents and ambitions.

One more book – one that I’ve started reading this year, but have not finished

1. The Institutes of Christian Religion, vol. 1 (of 2) by John Calvin – No other book that I have read in my life has offered as much spiritual encouragement as this. It is a large work – this volume alone is 800 pages - but it is worth the effort to read through it. I’m about 200 pages into it and am deeply grateful for having picked it up. I encourage you to find a copy (Per Wayne Grudem, I purchased the two volume set that come together in this set edited by John T. McNeil. Though pricy ($25/book), it is worth every penny – for what better thing to spend money on than the nourishment of your soul? Skip a night out at the movies (easily $50 these days) and put it toward this book.

1 comment:

John and Pam said...

This is a great post. I agree with the Cross and the Swaztika as an excellent book. Enlightening and it challenges the concept of forgiveness. I'd love to read the CS Lewis bio. Thanks for all the recommendations.