Favorite Books Read in 2012

So far, anyway

December 31, 2012

Before we get into it:

  • This isn’t a list of books published this year, but a selection of my favorite books read this year. I didn’t read all that many books published this year; I’m still working through piles accumulated in previous years.
  • There is one criteria for inclusion: which books stand out to me the most as I review the list what I read this year. Some said things I’ve wanted to say, but better than I ever could. Some are here because they challenged me with new ways of thinking and being. Some stirred my imagination and some made me chuckle.
  • No fiction made the list this year, which is unusual. Life of Pi was my favorite fiction read this year, but there would still be a few other non-fiction books I might put on this list before it.

The Bible Made Impossible, by Christian Smith
Winner of the “Yes, yes yes!” category, because that’s what I often thought while reading it. I posted a brief review and some of my highlights from the book early in the year.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, by Ian Morgan Cron
It hasn’t been deliberate, but I’ve read a number of memoirs the last year or two. I marvel at how the best memoir writers can lay claim to memories that most of us might not want to journal about, let alone publish. But surely the writing is healing, and reading it is too, and Cron’s memoir does that as well as any. Also, winner of the “Should be here for the title alone” category.

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
Winner of the “You’ve probably heard lots of good things about this book, and they are true” category.

Unclean, by Richard Beck
Winner of the “Gee, I never thought of it that way” category. I read enough theology at the popular level that it’s not often that a book explores a direction that helps me see things in an entirely new light. This one did.

Half the Sky, by Nick Kristoff
This was hard to read, causing many a squirm, yet also hopeful. I think it’s one of most important books to be published in recent years, bringing the contemporary mistreatment of women around the world to mainstream conversation.

Drop Dead Healthy, by AJ Jacobs
I listened to the audiobook which was read by AJ himself, and that’s a good thing. It also means I was that guy you see laughing while sitting at a stoplight in a car with no passengers.

What It Is Like To Go To War, by Karl Marlantes
I picked this up, well, digitally downloaded, from the library after seeing in on several best of 2011 lists. A candid exploration of the agonies and euphorias experienced by those in war.

The Source of Life, by Jurgen Moltmann
Moltmann is on the shortlist of my favorite theologians, though much of what I’ve read by him sails over my head like a Josh Hamilton longball. (Go Angels!) This book, based on a series of lectures, offers a more accessible treatment of his theology.

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
Sometimes, you read a book that started out as a magazine article, and probably should have stayed a magazine article. Based on the popularity of Brene Brown’s TED talks, you might think this is her TED talk stretched out to 250 pages. Maybe so, but in this case, there is plenty to explore and my copy may have more words highlighted than not.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
I read this again this year, for the second, or maybe third time. How it did not make my favorites list in those previous years is one of the greater mysteries of my life. Shameful. (I think I just memoir’ed!)

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