Sunday I started my list of favorite books by posting the 9 Honorable Mentions that I wanted to highlight but for one reason or another didn’t main the main list. Yesterday I posted my favorite 10 Fiction books and today, 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. These are not in a particular order.
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace by Miroslav Volf – This is a book that still after a few days short of a year later, I still am thinking about. I am planning on re-reading this soon. Miroslov Volf is a professor at Yale, and previous to that Fuller. The book is intended to be a popular level book (although still pretty dense). Volf is well known for his more academic Exclusion and Embrace which is also about reconciliation and forgiveness. Volf in Free of Charge explicitly connects forgiveness and giving as concepts and talks about the importance of both forgiveness and reconciliation. And he is mostly talking about big areas of sin (rape, genocide, murder), not small. However, using the concepts that he uses for big sins, it is easy to see how they are also important for what we usually think of as smaller, more personal sins, gossip, slander, meanness. ($5.98 on kindle)
The God of the Mundane by Matt B Redmond – God of the Mundane is a great counter to a lot of the ‘Christianity is radical’ books. As I said in my original review, if I were going to write a book, this is a book I would write. Christianity is more about the mundane everyday world than the big deal events. And just because we are not well known, does not mean we are not serving God in exactly the way he want us to be serving. (only $2.99 on kindle)
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power by Andy Crouch – Power is something that Christians, and Evangelicals in particular, are uncomfortable with. But Crouch’s book makes the case that it is not power that is bad, but the improper use of power that is bad. For Crouch, the highest use of power is creative power that empowers others. This is book has only been out for a few weeks, but has had a lot of positive reviews and is on a couple of best Christian books of 2013 lists.
Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts by William J Webb – Corporal Punishment in the Bible takes an issue that while important, does not have the emotional tension of some other issues (like women in leadership) that also use Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic. The short version of the hermeneutic is that God speaks to us where we are, but actually seeks more for us. So in scripture restrictions and instructions on corporal punishment were limiting what culture deemed acceptable. As culture has changed, we need to work with the thrust of scripture, not words of scripture to understand what God’s actual desire is. One example from the book is that in scripture slavery is limited but not prohibited. But as culture changed, a complete prohibition of slavery is what is God actually desires.
Because the book is marginally about parenting, Webb and his wife co-write an epilogue about what they actually do in their house to parent and discipline their children. It is about 30 pages, but it is a very good short essay on parenting. ($9.99 on kindle)
Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present by Carolyn Weber – The is a memoir of finding the holy parts of ordinary life. It is similar in theme to God of the Mundane and a very good follow up to Weber’s earlier memoir of coming to faith, Surprised by Oxford. It opens and closes with stories about birth which was particularly relevant to me this year. ($8.52 on Kindle)
Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works by James K.A. Smith – Smith keeps challenging me. I am not reformed in perspective, but I am challenged by Smith perspective on the role of worship and liturgy in spiritual formation. Again this is a challenging read. I spent over a month working through it and it is one that I want to re-read in 2014 (along with the earlier book in the trilogy that I have not read). This is another book that will be on a lot of people’s best of 2013 book lists. ($12.64 on kindle)
C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister E McGrath – This is one of several new biographies and other books about CS Lewis that came out this year. (This is the 50th anniversary of his death.) This was a well written biography and was the first to utilize newly released letters. There were some holes in the content (I wanted more about his spiritual development and his relationship with his stepsons). This is the best of the biographies of Lewis that I have read. Maybe the best statement I can say about it is that it inspired me to read almost a dozen additional books by or about Lewis after reading it. ($9.50 on kindle)
Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable by Christopher Hall and Stephen Boyer – Mystery of God focuses on what we can know about God and what is Mystery. It avoids the problem on the one side of suggesting that we cannot know anything about God and the problem on the other of suggesting that we can completely know God. It charts out a healthy place that says God is other and therefore not completely knowable, while holding as important what we know of God because God has revealed himself to us through scripture, experience and the person of Jesus Christ. This is serious theology, but the most readable by the average lay person of the three theology books on this list. ($9.99 on Kindle)
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter – To Change the World came out in 2010 to a lot of acclaim and comment. It is not a book that everyone will agree with, but I think it is an interesting and helpful book to talk about what the role is for Christians to work to make the world a better place. Essentially it is three long (connected) essays. I first read Hunter in grad school with his book Culture Wars written in 1992. So he has been thinking about these issues for quite a while and while I do not completely agree with everything, I think his ideas are worth reading and paying attention to. ($9.99 on kindle)