Favorite Books of 2010

December 27, 2010

There’s less than a week left in 2010, so it’s time for my sixth annual favorite books of the year list. I read fewer books this year than I have in any year since I started this blog, but still managed to (barely) reach my goal of averaging a book a week. And I must admit my skimming skills grew this year.

As I looked at my list, there were a lot of books this year that I felt apathy about — this may have contributed to said skimming skills. But there were some stand outs, as you’ll see below. These were the books that marked me the most, moving either my soul or my brain to new places. Each of them either caused me to think different, or want to live different, or both. Here they are, in the order I read them this year (with Amazon associate links if you’d like to buy them and contribute to my reading funds):

The Year of Living Biblically, by AJ Jacobs (paperback | Kindle)
How did I never blog about this one? I enjoyed as much as anything I read this year, and my wife commented how often I chuckled aloud while reading it. AJ Jacobs spent a year trying to follow the Bible as literally as possible. His approach was not with the intention to mock but to experience, and his reflections are both humorous and enlightening.

Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger (paperback | Kindle)
This is the only fiction on the list (though I’ll do a summary of all the fiction I read this year, like I did last year). After three recommendations (two in one week!), I was expecting a good book. What made it great was the strong emotional pull of the father to son relationship for this father of a small boy.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero (hard cover | Kindle)
Blog mentions: Stages of Faith
I’ll just quote what I said in my summer reading review: “A follow up to Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Church, which is a valued book in my library. Both of Scazzero’s books are important because the advocate for a spiritual formation that shapes our whole life, integrating our emotions and relationships. I strongly recommend them for anyone in church leadership.”

The Language of God, by Francis Collins (paperback | Kindle)
Again, I’ll quote what I said in my summer reading review: “I picked this book up on a discounted remainder shelf at the bookstore — it seems like an overlooked book. After reading it, I’m surprised it didn’t generate more dialogue than it did, as I don’t recall hearing much about it. Collins in a respected scientist and openly Christian, and engages the two perspectives to show that they aren’t as at odds as they are portrayed to be. He openly supports evolution as a Christian and that’s why I’m surprised there wasn’t more conversation about the book.”

Empire of Illusion, by Chris Hedges (paperback | Kindle)
Hey, how about I quote what I said in my “summer reading review?: “I loved, and hated, this book. You have to love the subtitle (I guess you don’t have to, but I did): The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Hedges takes a thoughtful look at our cultural assumptions in the United States about entertainment, the economy and moreI enjoyed it because it has a certain “peel back the curtain and see the little man pretending to be the wizard” quality to it, but found myself squirming throughout the book — not because I often didn’t agree with him, but because I often did.”

God in Creation, by Jürgen Moltmann (paperback | Kindle)
I think it would be good for me to quote what I said in my “summer reading review: “I’m sure I started this book before any of the others on the list, but I finished it after all of them. It’s the kind of read you have to take in thoughtful chunks. I’ve only started to read Moltmann in the last few years, but appreciate the unique voice and perspective he brings to my background. The first section of this book — the relationship between God and creation — and the last — Sabbath as an act of enjoying and experiencing God through creation — were excellent.”

Practice Resurrection, by Eugene Peterson (paperback | Kindle)
In an era where churches are evaluated based on how “off the hook” their services were on Sunday, Peterson’s writing is a needed reset switch. Peterson works through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to show how a church is a community of people growing alongside each other toward spiritual maturity. It’s hard, it’s messy, it’s beautiful — this book could serve as a manifesto for the kind of church community I want to be a part of shaping.

Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, by Margaret Wheatley (paperback | Kindle)
Blog mention: Some of the Most Helpful Words on Leadership I’ve Read
Perhaps it would be best for me to quote what I said in my “fall reading review: “This was a recommended text in one of my final Mars Hill Grad School classes. It caught my eye at the time, and two years later I got around to reading it. One of the more helpful books I’ve read on understanding leadership of a community as a living organism rather than a tuned machine. The first half was more helpful that the second. was more helpful that the second.”

When the Church Was a Family, by Joseph Hellerman (paperback | Kindle)
Blog mention: a review I wrote for PlantR
This is a book I’ve considered buying for our entire church community and asking them to read it. Hellerman illuminates how the church related to one another in light of the more collectivist mindset of the first few centuries of Christianity. As he shows, there is much that we miss when reading the Scriptures through our contemporary, individualistic glasses. But as he develops a richer vision of the early church, and some implications for the contemporary church, I found myself nodding and highlighting on page after page as he helped me see some of my own hopes and longings for what the church is meant to be.”

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (paperback | Kindle)
(This is the only book on the list that I read a physical copy of, because the pulisher insists that Amazon charge more for the ebook that the paperback. I will not rant. I will not rant.)Last year, The Omnivore’s Dilemma made this list, and Pollan pulls a repeat. I’m convinced that developing a theology of food is one of the most important tasks for the church in the next decade, with both local and global implications. Pollan is the most prominent, and perhaps the most important, voice on the topic.

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