Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top books of 2012

Here's a few of the top book enjoyed in 2012. These are in no particular order:

2000 Years of Christ's Power by N.R. Needham - The first of a three volume series on the history of the church. Very accessible, though the "looping" structure takes a bit of adjustment if you are used to a real clear, linear progression. More info on the book in this previous post. Another great church history work that is short and pretty focused is Turning Points by Mark Knoll.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard - Story of the assassination of President James Garfield and the ensuing attempt to save him from the gunshot wound. Interesting unpacking of the challenges associated with going against the establishment in any field (in this case, the medical field). Tragic in that Garfield would have most likely lived if the doctors would have just done nothing. Also a good reminder that doctors don't know everything. This same author wrote another favorite (from last year) The River of Doubt, about Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of a previously uncharted river in the Amazon. 

A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden - This title is a bit of a play on words, as Marsden first wrote a longer bio on Edwards (640 pages) before this version, which comes in at a much more accessible 176 pages. Great summary of his "short" (died at 54) and remarkable life. Listened to this one as a free download from Christian Audio while building book shelves. Yes, that really happened.

The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner - All of Stegner's works have been a literary delight. Grab any of his books and curl up next to the fire with a steaming cup of earl grey tea.

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau - Great book about how to live life to the fullest without jumping through all the traditional hoops of society. For instance, the author went to college without a high school diploma, finished college while working in a remote part of Africa, and completed a Masters in record time. All this while fulfilling his goal of visiting every country in the world. Very inspiring and practical in terms of thinking through the major goals you hope to accomplish in life and how to break them down practically into every day steps.

Fearless by Eric Blehm - First heard about this story from my neighbor, who was a fraternity brother of Adam Brown's. Inspiring story of a guy who lived his entire life on the edge and struggled through drug addiction to become an elite Navy Seal. He's also from a town just down the road from us, Hot Springs (Bill Clinton's birthplace and home of the first national park). Listen to a three part interview with his wife that aired on FamilyLife Today.

The hardest part of reading this book is feeling pretty stinking worthless in comparison to Mr. Brown. Definitely Inspiring.

Imitating Jesus by Lewie Clark - A good friend wrote this book about his approach to discipleship. A great, short summary of how the church should be thinking about ministry today.

Born to Run by Chris McDougall - I've never really been much of a runner, but couldn't put this book down, primarily because of the fascinating story of the Mexican tribe that embraces running as a central part of their culture. McDougall also emphasizes the value of running for the sake of the love of running alone, more than any other reason or motivation. Reading this book had the unintended consequence of renewing my love of exercise and motivating my lard butt to shed 10 pounds this year.

Here are a few other books I'm working on and hope to finish soon that are worth mentioning:

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller - Every person who is married or thinking of getting married some day should read this. Keller paints an amazing picture of what marriage is and what it is not. The back cover copy is worth the price of the book alone.

Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham - John F. Kennedy once said, during a dinner hosted at the White House for all living recipients of the Nobel Prize, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Jefferson was a fascinating mix of entrepreneur, musician, philosopher, and politician unlike any other man in the history of the United States. As I read more about him, it seems that his thinking, more than anyone else at the time, gave the greatest shape to what America became.

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neal Postman - American culture is overly addicted to entertainment (can you be 'overly' addicted? Is that not excessively redundant?). Postman wrote the definitive work on the issue over 30 years ago, and it reads like it was written yesterday. We need better thinking on the topic in the church today, instead of just riding the wave of the cultural current that flows around us. Reading this book will help you see what's floating in the water we're all swimming in.

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