Funny thing about being an English/Reading teacher, I don't get a chance to read too often. And I'm a slow reader. And not as careful a reader as I wished. But, then again, I've seen the way many of my blogger friends read and I feel so much better about my reading abilities. So, what I wanted to say is, time to play fast and easy with the books list here. These are all books that I bought within the year (and haven't read before the year, so any books from the Bible, per se, would be automatically disqualified), and I finished at least a third of by this point, and want to finish. (Yeah, I didn't finish a good selection of books this year. Some I may not finish. Ever. It's like being in college again.)
6) Donald Miller - Blue Like Jazz. I know a lot of Christian leaders are putting this book at the top of their lists. And it's good. But I like his third book better. And honestly, I'd rather have put Dallas Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines in this list. But I realized that it doesn't qualify, as I only read through a quarter of it. Darn my ADD.
5) Fyodor Doesteovsky - The Idiot. This is the only fiction that I've really felt like reading this year and the only fiction I'll be taking with me on my retreat next week. I don't know if I would've made it anywhere near as far with The Brothers Karamozov, written around the same period. Much like the characters in the novel, however, I've instantly fallen in love with the titular prince.
4) Philip Yancey - The Bible Jesus Read. I've had this hankering for all things historically grounded and Jesus. And Yancey has had a big part of fulfilling and feeding that itch (along with N.T. Wright). In this book, he looks at the suffering and the God that Jesus would have been well-acquianted with from the Holy (and often ignored in contemporary churches) Scriptures of the Old Testament, the only Bible that Jesus would've read. Of utmost enjoyment to me was the chapter on the Psalms, the frustrating and glorious dregs of humanity speaking to God (as most of the books that Yancey chose in this selection are) through suffering, despair, faith, doubt, victories, losses, worship and other such human experiences.
3) Eugene Peterson - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Peterson, the translator/paraphraser of The Message version of the Bible, has a way at tugging at the simple Christian trying to live the simple Christian life and yet being pulled in all directions. He, having been a minister for so many years to a relatively small church, knows the simple truth of the Gospels, that God has freed us through Christ to live for him and in him and through him, all of our lives and in every bit of our lives. As the title suggests, it's completely against the grain of the sexy, Your Best Life Now, Instant Discipleship, Jesus' Guide to Being a Successful CEO type of modern crap prevailing around, allowing for Kanye West to get Gospel music recognition without living or even acknowleging a truly Christian worldview of Christ as King. Anyway, enough of the tirade. The book isn't angry. I am. Sorry.
2) Philip Yancey - The Jesus I Never Knew. I accidentally left this in the church van a few months back. I hope whoever has it is enjoying it as much as I was. I have to buy a new copy. Yancey's a great writer, a bit of a journalist with a keen eye for the right phrasing. And I love his attention and gaze at the iconoclastic God in the flesh. And the voices he brings in to also comment on Jesus.
1) Donald Miller - Searching for God Knows What. Okay, despite being one of the few books I managed to finish reading (and relatively quickly at that), it's also - for my head-into-Jesus fascination this year, certainly - a great book. Not as scholarly or comprehensive as Yancey's (not that Yancey is scholarly... umm... I'm just digging myself into a big hole here aren't I?), but certainly more personal, more reactionary, more visceral.