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Books of 2015: 10 Best/10 Meh’s

I know this is a little late, as we are already on our way into 2016, but I wanted to quickly share with you some of the great books I read, as well as the books I am still wrestling with  (the “mehs”), of 2015:

The Best:

  1. The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
    • This book is at the top of my list for the year. The ideas put forth are clear, provocative, and beautifully challenging. I challenge anyone to read this and not be stirred to want to make following Jesus a whole life endeavor, not simply a specialized field of study.
  2. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
    • Having never read O’Connor before, I was looking for laughs, but what I found were dark themes of mercy and hope, swimming in guilt and regret. The love of God is her major theme, but you have to begin with the presupposition that all of us are damned.
  3. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
    • I don’t know how I got ahold of this book, but I had heard that through doing the research for this book, Gladwell had found the faith of his childhood reawakened. Over and beyond the most inspirational book I read all year, as well as full of statistical wisdom. Read all the way to the end if you want the story of the woman who forgave a murderer, and a village in Nazi occupied France who refused to give up the Jews they were hiding.
  4. Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • This was one of those books that I found an odd fire of hope within its incredibly dark themes. One wouldn’t think that a revival of faith and hope would take place in a concentration camp, but Frankl proves that it did — and still can for those who suffer.
  5. A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd
    • Zahnd’s theology has gotten me into trouble. Whenever I came out of the closet as a believer in nonviolence, many of those whom I hold dear gave me the strangest looks. Well, this book helped to light the fire, or awaken the beast that was within me. I haven’t held onto all of the ideas he put forth in this book, but I will never forget the story of the air force base chapel with the cross that was made with swords. Chilling and hopeful.
  6. Surprised by Scripture by N. T. Wright
    • I love Tom Wright. His wit, argument, and unmatched scholarship put him at the top of the list of my favorite theologians, living or dead. A short read, this one contains a collection of his essays, covering various controversial topics that the Bible speaks to.
  7. Desire Of The Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill
    • Cahill has quickly become one of my heroes as well. His historical work in the “Hinges of History” series are highly readable, and pure pleasure to engage with. Thomas understands history as a story, and seeks to capture innovators within our species. In this book, he brilliantly captures the historical Jesus in all of his revolutionary glory, that I quite often found myself wanted to scream and shout after every page. And this is not a work of theology, it is simply history. Which is a testimony to Cahill’s brilliance.
  8. No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
    • After seeing the movie I had always wanted to read the book. Well, I finally did! Beautifully lush in his descriptions of the Texas-Mexico border, and chillingly pulpy in his recounting of a murderer who is after a lone hunter for stumbling upon a case of drug money, McCarthy weaves a mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat every time I picked it up.
  9. Waiting For God by Simone Weil
    • The Jewish Revolutionary who became a Catholic, wandered war zones, and taught others how to pray everywhere she went. Need I say more? Weils essays are a slice of metaphysical heaven. Not for the faint of heart, Weil wields the sword of authenticity. I felt like I could love others better after encountering her life through her writings.
  10. Everyday Apocalypse by David Dark
    • Written around the turn of the century, Dark does an amazing job of revealing the hidden revelation within the arts that so many of us in evangelicalism have neglected or simply missed along the way. He wants to re-capture beauty and its role in the mission of the church, and I must say, he does an excellent job. Pick this book up for a fresh challenge, and a fun exercise in truth hunting.

The Rest:

  1. The Bible Tells Me So by Pete Enns
    • This book suffered because of all the hype surrounding it. As I was trying to find a way to make sense of the revelation of God in the Old Testament, and the witness of Jesus in the Gospel, I was hoping Dr. Enns might have something to offer me, but in the end it was simply more questions. I’m still wrestling with his arguments, and even though it didn’t make my “best” list, I will most likely read it more times than others.
  2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    • I’m not sure what to think about this one. A pulitzer-prize winning novel, it is no secret why it shines brightly in the academy and in Oprahs book world. I just didn’t connect with the larger themes of the book, nor the point of leaving the man and child unnamed. Beautiful at times, but severely bleak. I found that the ending had a ray of hope, which is why I will return to this book and hopefully glean something fresh.
  3. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
    • My heart broke when she told the stories of the kids who train hop in order to find their mothers who live in America, but by the end of the read I didn’t know where she was trying to take the reader with the story. The real hero of the story were the clergy who stood against the thugs with guns when they came to collect the children. Bravo! But they were grazed over.
  4. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
    • Lets be honest folks. This book was nothing compared to Mockingbird. A book about heroes who are more human that you remember, it is still a slice of southern charm, but ultimately became a read I may only return to at a much later date.
  5. Jesus Wants To Save Christians by Rob Bell
    • Bell and Golden began the book with a strong introductory chapter, but I felt the momentum only dies as the book progressed. I love the themes, but the tone and movement didn’t carry anything for me.
  6. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    • The last 20 pages make the whole novel for me, and I’m still figuring out the themes but overall it is a great novel. His clear pantheism and argument for the existence of God is very weak, but still, the novel is full of heart.
  7. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    1. What can I say. This book sucked. I understand when an author desires to tell the truth about a people group, but one such as this felt unnervingly preachy and at times, very annoying with its main character. I know that missionaries had once been incredibly imperialistic with native tribes, but come on…a classic book would have multi dimensional characters, right? Look elsewhere.
  8. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    • I was hoping to find an anti-war novel, and I surely got that, but the humor was too forced and the time traveling elements to unrealized all throughout the novel. This novel will get multiple reads from me. Perhaps I just don’t get it? We will see.
  9. The Gift of Death by Jacques Derrida
    • It is hard to say what I think about this book. Derrida is one of the greats, but this book was hailed as a development of Kierkegaard’s book “Fear and Trembling.” I didn’t think it even came close to touching Kierkegaard. The exegesis was weaker than a bible college freshman. But some of the more philosophical implications of faith and death were great, which is why I will return to this one later and see if I missed more than one good idea.
  10. Crazy For God by Frank Schaeffer
    • Honestly, his anger leaps off of every page. I wish it was better, and less driven to be so authentic that he turned to cynicism.

Well folks, that is all. Let me know what great books you read in 2015!

Jon

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