I have posted my list of favorite books I read over the previous year since I started Bookwi.se. In years’ past, I wrote a brief introduction and then reposted the review and spread the ‘best of’ list over two weeks. This year I have a lot more books that I think need mentioning. I had a hard time narrowing and still ended up with 29 books. So today I am going to talk about the Honorable Mentions. These are books that I think are well worth reading, that I really enjoyed, but for one reason or another didn’t make the top 10 cut. Monday I will post my 10 favorite Fiction books and Tuesday, my 10 favorite Non-Fiction books.
As always these books are based on the year I read them, not the year published. And they are based on my enjoyment of the book, not necessarily its literary greatness. Of the total 29, 11 of the books I listened to on audiobook (and the audio was excellent and in several cases they made the list because of the audio.)
Of the 29, 9 were published this year, 6 last year and only 5 were published before 2000. The remaining 9 were published between 2001 and 2010. These are not in a particular order. Links are to the full reviews.
Fiction Honorable Mentions
Back on Murder by J Mark Bertrand – My fiction tastes do not normally run to murder mysteries or police procedurals, but after having this book recommended over and over again, I picked it up. It is one of the books that are regularly free on Kindle. I picked up the discounted audiobook with promotional Audible credit because I tend to listen to books I am reluctant to read. That was probably a bad choice, the audio I think detracted from the story. But the story was excellent. Especially considering that it is published by a Christian publisher. Unfortunately this excellent book’s author is looking for a new publisher since he thinks that the Christian publisher does not know how to market this genre. And the publisher is not making any money on a book that has had great reviews but not sold all that well. It is the first of a trilogy. I have picked up the rest of the trilogy when they were on sale, but I have not read them yet. (Currently Free)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Margaret Atwood is a well known author that I have not read. I picked this up on audiobook when it was on sale and because it was narrated by Claire Danes as part of Audible’s A-List Series. Handmaid’s tale is one of the classic dystopian books. The books is narrated by a woman who’s name is never revealed. Society has collapsed, fertility rates have plummeted and women have lost all of their rights. So the woman OfFred (named for her relationship to her owner/husband, not with her own name) describes her life and the world around her. The dry plain narration fits with this book very well and it is easy to see the power of a real dystopian nightmare.
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – I remember liking the movie with Anthony Hopkins and I again picked this book up primarily because it was on sale. A British Butler tells his story through flashbacks and tries to show that his life was not wasted. I was a bit frustrated because clearly the point of the book is that who we serve matters. And the main Lord that this butler serves was not a great man. But the Butler served him well regardless of how great of a Lord he was. The whole thrust of the book would have been lost if the Lord had succeeded in his plans. In spite of my quibble with this focus, the book was well worth reading and it did a great job exploring the meaning of vocation, focus in our lives and what it means to serve a cause and person.
Non-Fiction Honorable Mentions
Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen – I really like reading Christian history. I think it is both important and interesting. But I have read very little about recent Evangelical Christian History. This is a book that fills that niche. It is published by Oxford Press and is written by a serious historian, but it is interesting and well written so is accessible to popular level readers. The main thesis is that one of the distinctive features of Evangelicalism is lack of structured authority figures. Instead authority is primarily focused around personalities that lead movements. So individuals, like Billy Graham, Carl Henry and Francis Schaeffer play a large role. But Worthen does not hold back from criticizing these leaders or knocking down some of the Evangelical myths. What is especially helpful is that Worthen places her history of modern Evangelicalism in context of the US
The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St Francis by Richard Rohr – this is really a series of lectures, not a real book. This is the third or fourth book I have read of Rohr’s and I have been impressed with all of them. Art of Letting Go is about Franciscan spirituality. Rohr weaves spiritual advice, history of St Francis, his own spiritual walk into six lectures. This is one that I want to listen to again early in 2014 because it is spiritually deep and quite challenging.
The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs – Over the past year or so I have been paying more and more attention to the spiritual resources of more high church traditions. One of the most important resources of the Anglican tradition is the Book of Common Prayer. Alan Jacobs writes an interesting history exploring the writing and why it has never actually been updated in the UK (short version, no changes satisfy the wide variety of interest groups that would like to see the Book of Common Prayer updated.) I really did not know anything about the Book of Common Prayer’s history. But if you are looking for a book on using the Book of Common Prayer this is not that book.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee – Cancer has touched virtually everyone either directly or through someone they know. This biography of the history of Cancer and its treatment is also a good proxy for the history of medicine with interesting side lines exploring medical ethics, statistics, the insurance industry and a good summary of the current state of cancer research. Hopefully you are not interesting in cancer because it is currently touching your life, but regardless this science history is quite readable, albeit a bit long.
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with Recipes) by Shauna Niequist – I really like Niequist’s writing. Her ability to mine normal life events for something deeper is on fine display here. She is writing less a memoir, than a series of essays loosely tied to the idea of food, family and relationships. My main (and really only complaint) is that the book only briefly touches on the theme of the eucharist as hinted at by the title.
The trinity has been one of my pet interests over the past 18 months or so. This book has a clear position that modern theological explorations of the trinity are very different from the original conceptions of the trinity and the author thinks that is a very bad thing. Personally, I am not convinced by the argument, but I do think that his history of the early theology of the trinity is both well sourced and quite readable. The problem is that I am not sure that Holmes reading of modern theology of the trinity is as good as his reading of early Christian trinitarian theology. But regardless of my quibbles, I think the book is still well worth reading.