2011 Books of the Year and Honorable Mentions

Jester reading a book

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The List has been decided.  Starting tomorrow, I will re-post the reviews of the books that made the most impact on me this year.  These are not necessarily the books that I think are the best books of the year (although most of them would be), but instead these are the books that weeks or months after I finished them, I was still talking about and still recommending to others.  The list will not be in ranked order (I couldn’t figure out how to rank them), but alphabetical by Author.  After the jump are the 10 honorable mentions that were very close to making my list.

For each of the books of the year re-posted reviews, I will add a short introduction to each review about why it was one of my books of the year, but otherwise, I will mostly leave the review as it was, unless there is a glaring error that I feel the need to correct.

I will post a separate list for my favorite fiction books.  Because I overwhelmingly read non-fiction and the fiction that I do read is 1) often not new, and 2) mostly young adult or genre fiction, I will just have a summary fiction post toward the end of the year.

Below are the books that just barely did not make the list.  I will have read between 175 and 180 books this year.  And there are around 1 million book a year published in English.  So there are many, many books that are very good that did not make my list.

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson (and a second review of the audiobook) – It is a strong sign of how good I feel that the top 10 list is that this book is not on the main list.  I read it twice in six weeks after it came out and gave away a number of copies.  It is a great book and well worth your time.  If you are looking for a Christmas gift for a pastor in your life, that would be a good one.

Upside: The Surprising Good News About the State of Our World by Bradley Wright – There are too many Wrights that I enjoy reading right now (NT, Christopher, Bradley).  This is a book that is intended to both correct the perception that everything is going downhill and to help us refocus on what really is important.  Every time we spent time, effort and money on problems that are not important, it is less time, effort and money that we have to spend on issues that actually are important.  My personal example is the TSA.  Do you realize that we spend about 25 percent more on the TSA than we do on the entire Federal Court system?  Having a good understanding (with good stats) really is important.  This is also a book that will help you feel better about the world when you finish, not worse, which is always a good thing.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs – If you love the read, this is book that you will love to read.  Jacobs, one of the best essayists around, takes on reading.  His main thesis is that we spend too much time worrying about what we ought to be reading and not enough time focused on the actual pleasure of reading.

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill – This is currently on sale for $1.99.  The reflections on sexuality, celibacy and same gender attraction are powerful regardless of whether you are gay or straight, single or married, celibate or not.  Hill has a powerful understanding of God’s creation of sexuality precisely because he is writing as a celibate, gay Christian.  I read a number of books on sex this past year and this is the one I would most recommend.

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers – In general there is not a lot of debate about whether pornography is good for you or not within the Christian world.  In spite of this, porn is a serious problem for both men and women, single and married.  It is only going to become a larger problem.  Struthers’ book is the only one that I have read that deals with both scriptural and sin issues of pornography and the actual physical/neurological/sexual problems that are created when a brain is exposed to porn.  I wish there was more about women in this book, or that there was a follow up book that also discussed women.  But in spite of this, I would encourage both men and women to read this book and work through seriously the real implications of porn.

NT Wright – Scripture and Authority of God (second reading), Simply Jesus, and The Challenge of Jesus – I have read a lot of NT Wright this year (more books by NT Wright than any other author this year).  But these three are all very important to my on-going project of really understanding how we both take seriously a life submitted to the Lordship of Christ, the real Christ not just the comfortable one we have a picture of, and how we read and properly understand scripture.  The biggest insight for me from Scripture and Authority is that scripture has authority because it is God’s word.  It authority is not its own, but a reflection of the authority of God.  This may not be revolutionary but it is very important.  The two books on Jesus were also important for me to work through the importance of a ‘Christological Hermeneutic’.  I believe next year I am going to spend some serious time exploring the implications of the trinity.  But Wright has left me in good stead with Jesus.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews – I picked this up on a whim and was shocked how much I enjoyed it.  I will definitely get the next volume when it is out.  Julie Andrews is a very good author and an even better narrator (I listened to this on audiobook).  It only goes until just before she started filming Mary Poppins (right after the birth of her first daughter.

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