I may not have school-age kids like Bart Campolo, but this list represents pretty much everything I’ve read this year – as much as I’d like to pretend that these are the “best” of the many many volumes I’ve consumed. Maybe because I read just before bed, and tend to fall asleep after a page or two, especially when reading nonfiction… Also note that many of these books are very, very short, and almost none were published in 2006.

Monday Marriage: Celebrating the Ordinary, by Gerald and L. Marlene Kaufman. I’m getting married on March 31, and this book was a quick but helpful read in creating realistic expectations as my fiancé and I prepare to mutually submit to each other in love the wedding industrial complex.

A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. This edition includes the “lost” final chapter that was excised from all U.S. versions prior to 1987 – including Stanley Kubric’s film.

Christus Victor, by Gustaf Aulén The subtitle pretty much says it all: “An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement.”

Hocus Pocus, Mother Night, Timequake, and Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut. Not that his books don’t tackly deadly serious themes, but it’s Vonnegut’s humor that prompts me to down one of his novels after some grueling theological treatise – and sends me to the “V” section every time I visit a used book store.

You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, by Alice Walker. Compelling short stories of the complexities of overlapping racial, political, and sexual identities. Part of my self-assigned white male homework.

Black Theology and Black Power, by James Cone. More white-guy-homework, and as with Walker, this is critical education on the Black American experience.

Monnew, by Ahmadou Kourouma. A gift from my fiancé, who wrote her senior thesis on French colonialism in Africa. Kourouma chronicles the arrival of the French in a fictional African nation through the eyes of animist/Muslims who alternately resist and appease thier “Christian” exploiters.

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron. Recommended reading for anyone who has a loved one that struggles with depression – i.e., just about everyone. You will never fully understand the darkness that they grapple with, but you should at least try, and this book will help. It was also interesting to read a memoir by the author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and then read a character in You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down criticizing it. My books are talking to each other!

Changes that Heal, by Dr. Henry Cloud. Obviously written for an evangelical Christian audience (and hence lays the proof-texting on a bit thick), this book’s greatest contribution is to help remove the stigma of mental illness and affirm the value and necessity of seeking qualified therapists – when many in the church harmfully assign such problems to deficiencies of faith.

The Areas of My Expertise, by John Hodgman. You may recognize Hodgman from apperances on The Daily Show, where he’s a fake expert commenting on fake news. This book is something of a fake almanac – a mishmash of one-quarter fact, two-thirds fabrication, and five-eighths hilarious hogwash. (If you’re annoyed by my fuzzy math, you may not enjoy this book.)

Ryan Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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