I enjoy reading about what others have been reading so maybe you will enjoy reading about the books I have read. Below I have compiled a list of ten books I’ve read this past year and have enjoyed in one sense or the other. I try to read a variety of books and I read different books for different reasons, so take the list for what it is.
On the Road with Saint Augustine
James K. A. Smith
Saint Augustine is a giant in the history of the church and while I’ve read a bit of his Confessions and some of his other writings, I am not well aquatinted with Augustine. This book was an enjoyable and helpful way to delve a little deeper into Augustine’s life and theology.
“There is delight in the sojourn when we know where home is.”
The Ten Commandments
In my church tradition, we read the Ten Commandments every Sunday so they are familiar words. But in the wider church world, and especially in the secular world, they are only faintly familiar and generally misunderstood. In clear and concise writing, DeYoung unpacks all ten of God’s commandments and shows their ongoing relevance for the church (and world) today.
“Studying the Ten Commandments reveals the very heart of human rebellion: we don’t like God telling us what we can and cannot do.”
This was one of a few books I read in Spanish this year so I may not have understood everything. Nevertheless, I understood enough of the book to benefit from it. The parables of Jesus are often difficult to interpret correctly and MacArthur is a capable guide who takes you through ten or so parables and demonstrates how to interpret and apply them.
“The symbolism in Jesus’ parables is never thickly layered, and rarely even multidimensional.”
The Prodigal Prophet
Another book I read in Spanish. Jonah is a difficult book to get right. What do we make of Jonah’s reluctance to listen to God? Why does he think he can run away from God? Is his song in the belly of the fish genuine? Did the citizens of Nineveh truly repent? What ever happened to Jonah after his burst of anger towards the grace of God? What is the lesson for us today? Keller covers all these questions and more as he traces the journey of Jonah and his struggle with the outrageous grace of God.
“Sin always begins with the character assassination of God.”
The Seven Storey Mountain
This book is the autobiography and coming-to-faith story of a Trappist monk. That is interesting enough (in my opinion), but it is the rich writing style that takes this book to the next level. Furthermore, Merton gave me some helpful insight into the Catholic mindset, which is useful for my own cultural context here in Mexico. If you read The Seven Storey Mountain, and you are not Roman Catholic yourself, you will have to put up with his praise for all things Catholic, as well as his frequent criticisms of anything that smells of Protestantism. That aside, it is a fascinating look into how Merton came to faith and how his understanding of the world flipped upside-down.
“I had come very far, to find myself in this blind-alley; but the very anguish and helplessness of my position was something to which I rapidly succumbed. And it was my defeat that was to be the occasion of my rescue.”
Cows Save the Planet
Judith D. Schwartz
A book about the important role of soil (and cows) for ecosystems, economics, and environmentalism. My interest in this book is theological, although I did grow up on a farm so I’m sure that plays a part too. God has called us to be stewards of creation – to tend to the weeds and wild of the earth and put it to use for the benefit of our fellow man and to the glory of God. The question is how do we do this? Are Christians leading the way in creation care? How might we rectify some of the abuses of creation? This book at least gave me a small beginning towards understanding how to answer those questions. The author does not approach the subject from a Christian viewpoint, but I think much of what she writes is useful in forming a Christian approach.
“The food we eat is only as good as the soil from which it springs.”
Adorning the Dark
If you like creating art, read this book. If you don’t, I think this book would still be helpful. Peterson draws from his years of experience as a singer song-writer and author as he offers his thoughts on the purpose and process of creating things. It’s a short, easy read filled with personal stories so it will be accessible to nearly everyone. I am a big fan of Andrew Peterson and his work, so this book was a no-brainer for me.
“Christian art, then, might be defined as a work that is, like Christ himself, full of grace and truth.”
I discovered the writing of Frederick Buechner just recently and from what I read, this book was the place to start. It tells the life story of Godric, a saint from the twelfth century. Little is known of Godric, so Buechner imagines much of the story. What is unique about the book is that Buechner writes in an old-English style, which takes some getting used to, but in my opinion it is masterfully done. To be honest, this is a strange book and unlike anything I’ve read before, but if you appreciate a well-written story I’d recommend it.
“What’s lost in nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
The Door on Half-Bald Hill
This was my vacation read. It is a delightful mix of folklore and mythology with theological undertones. At the centre of the book’s themes is the question: Is death something to embrace and accept as part of the circle of life, or should we hope for something better? With such a central theme, the book is dark and somber, but in the end there is hope. I think that describes much of life.
“Light is older than death. I know it without knowing how. And death will not outlast it. Of that, too, I am sure. I take comfort. I carry that light within me.”
A dying man writes a long letter to his young son, giving him the insight and advice he soon won’t be able to give. I enjoy a beautifully written book, and that is exactly what this book is. I was consistently blown away by the skill in Marilynne Robinson’s writing. This book also touches on topics such as faith, fatherhood, and grace. The plot moves along at a pretty slow pace so you have to be patient, but I think it is worth it.
“It seems to me people tend to forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness but because God their Father loves them.“