Here are some of my favorite books from the past year. There isn’t any particular order to the list; I wrote what I could remember liking. If you can’t tell, I mainly tend to read theological, philosophical, and cultural books. I definitely need to read more fiction, so perhaps 2011 will be the year. Regardless, I hope this list may intrigue some people to check things out for themselves. Stay posted for a list of 2011’s readings.
In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson: This book is part of the Ancient Practices series. I bought it at Ollie’s for 3 bucks and couldn’t have been happier. As you may be able to tell from this list, and the fact that I’m an interim pastor at an Anglican Church, I’m into the historical church and its practices. This book goes into the author’s personal story of praying the Daily Office and its impact on him. If you are at all interested in the depth of prayer found in practices like the Daily Office or even if you don’t know anything about it, I highly suggest this small book. Perhaps my favorite book of the year.
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright: Here is my favorite author/theologian doing what he does best. This is the third in this series (the first is Simply Christian, which I haven’t read yet; the second is Surprised by Hope) and centers on Christian virtue. A great book on looking at the formation of Christians and how we are to work towards the future goal of being virtuous people. Like most N.T. Wright stuff, worth every penny. Oh yeah: $6 at Ollie’s.
The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah: I got this book for free for joining InterVarsity Press’ book club. An eye-opening book on the immigrant church here in America and how it is keeping the church in the West vibrant. Written from an Asian-American point of view, he demonstrates the cultural influences of the dominant white context of North America. Very good for thinking about the future of the Church.
Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness by Eugene Peterson: This is another great Peterson book. If you’ve never read any of his stuff, you need to. Looking at the story of Jonah, Peterson dives into the vocation of the pastor in all its intricacies. In typical Peterson fashion, his writing is such a wondrous crafting and forming of sentences that you just sit back and wonder how he ever learned to write that way.
Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli: Another great book on the ancient practices of the church. Here Galli breaks down the layers of every piece of the liturgy (he attends an Anglican Mission in the Americas church, the same denomination I’m an interim with) showing the beauty and depth of each section. Written for someone just entering into the liturgical world, he dissects and shows from a life steeped in the liturgy the intentional formative aspects of the ancient liturgy. Great, short book if you’re tired of the 3 songs-sermon-2 songs-out-the-door type of service.
Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative by Robert Webber: Another author/theologian that if you haven’t read any of his books, you need to. Here my affirmation of returning to the historical church is again reinforced. Webber, who advocated for the return to the ancient practices as a way forward for the church, centers this book on the liturgical worship of the Church. He aptly demonstrates the narrative foundation of the Church’s worship and its implications for today. A great, great work, again, for those looking to be thoroughly historical, missional, and engaging in our culture.
The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark: This was a completely random pick from Ollie’s. I bought it because Eugene Peterson gave it a great endorsement calling Dark, “my favorite critic of the people’s culture of America and the Christian faith.” Witty, deep, exploring, and challenging are good words for this book. He challenges and questions nearly every area of our faith in a way to make people think outside of the typical box. Very good.
Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church by James K.A. Smith: This is a part of The Church and Postmodern Culture series. Smith, who also wrote Desiring the Kingdom another one of my favorite books, is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College. His analysis of the “bumper sticker” slogans of postmodernism demonstrates the usefulness of the actual meaning behind them. Rather than shudder in fear, he asks us to investigate and apply the reality of what their philosophers are arguing. Written in an accessible manner, I would suggest this book for anyone looking into how postmodern thought, culture, and the church fit together. Also, he’s a big proponent of liturgical, formative practices, so he has my attention. Very good stuff.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: The classic text written by Huxley examines the future world and its obsession with pleasure. Published in 1932, it is still considered a haunting prophecy of our current culture and the woes it faces. If you’ve never read this before, I strongly urge you to pick it up at a garage sale or from your local library and dive in. The comparison with today and its implications for today will be great.