Every year I set myself a goal of reading 52 books, one per week. I’m currently at 44 for the year and although I still probably won’t hit the mark, I do have a lengthy international trip coming up at year’s end (more on that in my next post) so I’m holding out hope that my 18 hours in the air will give me time to at least get to 50.
Anyway, these are the best books I’ve read this year. Whereas I limit my music lists to songs & albums released in 2010, there’s no such restriction here on the book list. Enjoy!
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin. I’d been wanting to read this one for a couple of years and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve always had a thing for “mythical” larger-than-life figures like Cash and Lincoln. Amid the myriad Lincoln biographies that are out there, Doris Kearns Goodwin has accomplished the impossible: a fresh look at our 16th President. Highlighting the perpetual balancing act Lincoln had to maintain within his cabinet, this volume is essential reading. A classic.
- The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight. This is one of those rare books that makes me want to begin a re-read as soon as I’ve finished. Rich meditations on “The Jesus Creed” — love God, love others — mix with practical insight and relevant anecdotes to make The Jesus Creed a formational read.
- What Good is God?, Philip Yancey. This is perhaps Yancey’s best work in years. The book is structured with 10 chapter-pairings: Yancey highlights 10 of the places he’s been asked to speak over the years (Virginia Tech’s campus days after the ’07 massacre, for instance), giving readers insight into the context and circumstances, followed by Yancey’s manuscript text. What I appreciate most about Yancey is his willingness to confront head-on issues that many Christians are content to ignore: pain, doubt, poverty, sexual abuse victims, senseless violence. What unfolds is a pilgrimage across the globe and Yancey’s realization that God is “out in front”, ahead of us in God’s world, weeping with those who weep, hurting with those who hurt. A great read.
- Poets Against the War, edited by Sam Hammill. This grassroots peace movement developed in response to the U.S. War in Iraq earlier this decade. This entire project underscores one of the major problems in our nation today: an absolute intolerance of dissent and civil discourse. The older I get the more I appreciate poetry’s ability to ignite my imagination to God’s possibilities in the world. More than any other text this year, this book blessed me in this way.
- Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson. Peterson is my favorite. This meditation is a continuation of his series on spiritual theology, this time working out of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as a springboard for his discussion on spiritual maturity and character formation. Peterson’s gift for words and interpreting the Word are profound.
- The War for Late Night, Bill Carter. Little known fact: I was kinda obsessed with the whole Jay / Conan late night war earlier this year. This serves as a sequel of sorts to Carter’s examination of the Jay / Dave feud 15 years earlier. Personally, I’m a Conan guy, but this was a fascinating, entertaining read. Highly enjoyable.
- After You Believe, N.T. Wright. Similar to Peterson, Wright also released a book on the importance of character to the life of Christian discipleship. And although this one isn’t as immediately arresting as Simply Christian and Surprised By Hope, it’s a helpful text from a trusted guide on an essential topic.
- American Lion, Jon Meachem. I guess I was also a little obsessed with Presidential biographies this year. After reading Team of Rivals, I immediately threw myself into this one, a lengthy look at the life of Andrew Jackson, a fellow Tennessean and our 7th President. I’m left with a split decision on the man: some times, you just want to root for the kid who drew the short straw and has to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, which is the story of Jackson’s early coming-of-age years; yet, some of his dogged policies, especially concerning the removal of native Americans from their homes via the Trail of Tears, are nothing less than appalling. But as biographies go, this one is thoroughly engaging and insightful.
- The Yankee Years, Tom Verducci & Joe Torre. I always mix in a baseball read or two each summer; this year, I immersed myself in Torre’s autobiographical account of the Yankee dynasty of the late 90′s / early 00′s. I’ve never been a Yankee fan, but Torre’s class and character won me over a long time ago. Even Sox fans can appreciate Torre’s recollection of the bitter postseason showdowns between these rival organizations. A great summer read.
- Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott. This was a re-read; I started this one back in ’08 and never finished it. Not sure why. She makes me uncomfortable sometimes, but I love her writing and her sense of insight. I wish we had more like her.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson. Read this over Thanksgiving and it was really scary. I’m pretty deficient when it comes to the classics, but hopefully I can cross a few more off in the year to come.
- Rediscovering Values, Jim Wallis. I’ve always felt Wallis could use an editor, but this book was a bit more concise than his previous works. Yet again, a book on character and values. Kind of a theme this year.
- The Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse, Jason Boyett. Hilarious. Brief. Insightful. Loved it.
- Stories That Feed the Soul, Tony Campolo. Not only is Campolo a voice for social justice and a tremendous teacher / speaker, I think his greatest gift is as a story teller. These stories are proof positive.
- The Justice Project, Brian McLaren. A compendium of essays from an emerging generation of justice-visionaries and leaders. Not sure it’s as accessible as I’d like it to be, but these chapters give imaginative justice a much-needed makeover for the 21st century.
- Jesus Feast, Joshua Graves. Graves has written a powerful and clear-eyed meditation on the realities of discipleship in an emerging, post-modern culture. Writing with a prophetic yet authentic voice, Graves articulates the challenges of Jesus’ radical call to follow Him into the world and participate in His mission of reconciliation and healing.
- The Vertical Self, Mark Sayers. I reviewed this book back in the spring through Book Sneeze. But this text caught me at just the right time; a good friend and I were in the midst of teaching a class at church exploring God’s mysterious command for Israel and later the Christian church to “be holy as I am holy.” Sayers makes the conversation accessible, relevant, and — best of all — hopeful.
- Weezer Changes the World, David McPhail. I read this one to my kids at the library in late summer. I know, I know…it’s a kid book that took all of five minutes to read, so it’s pretty much a cheap way to pad my numbers. But it’s the only “kid” book on the list and, more importantly, another one that has stayed with me. I think there’s much gospel to this little story.
- Imaginary Jesus, Matt Mikalatos. Mikalatos writes with humor and depth that I find uncommon in this genre. Imaginary Jesus cuts through the veneer of our projections and assumptions and brings the Nazarene Rabbi back to us in a fresh and living way. Good stuff.
- The Intimate Mystery, Dan Allender & Tremper Longman III. Maybe the best book on marriage I’ve ever read. Outstanding.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the first time anyone has ever compared Cash and Lincoln together as “mythical larger than life figures.”
That was actually a bit of a typo. I wrote a sentence about “iconic figures” like Cash and Lincoln that have a bit of a sorrowful side to them…then I changed it to focus more on Lincoln and I used the word “mythical”…but I forgot to take Cash’s name out of the sentence.
But I think it works. In my house, Cash IS a mythical, larger-than-life figure!
So how many of these books do you just have an “e-version” of, and how many do you have a hard copy for? Do you have any good places to get some good books for cheap for your iPad?
I don’t have many e-books yet, Lane. “The War for Late Night” (#6) is the only one on this list that I have downloaded to my iPad. I’ve picked up lots of free books through the iBooks store (just keep checking the Top Downloads chart for free ones) as well as through the Kindle store.
There are also some daily deals they run through the iBooks store. You just have to watch for them.
Jason, thanks for the Imaginary Jesus shout out! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and it’s an honor to be included on a list with so many other spectacular reads.
I’m honored you stopped by the blog! Loved your book…looking forward to your next release.