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We’ve posted the favorite books read by our bloggers during 2006 over the last week or so, but thought it would be helpful to have a compilation of links to their lists for easy reference, so here it is. Click on each name for individual entries, or the “full entry” link to see all of the lists in one long post.
Full book lists:
Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter
The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama
A Godly Hero, by Michael Kazin
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
To the Mountaintop, by Stewart Burns
The Politics of Jesus, by Obery Hendricks
plus, re-reading lots of Bonhoeffer
People often ask me what I’m reading. This year, I read a lot of books on politics—and was impressed by a number of important books such as State of Denial, The Looming Tower, and The Audacity of Hope. But my favorite books of 2006 mostly go beyond the bestseller list and include:
The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Borg and Crossan’s careful study of Mark’s account of the Passion is one of the most interesting exegetical treatments of Jesus’ death I’ve ever read. I taught an Introduction to the Bible for several years at an undergraduate college—but Borg and Crossan taught me things I never knew. Especially noteworthy: their exegesis of the “Render unto Caesar” passage and their discussion of Palm Sunday. Some people stereotype Borg and Crossan, but The Last Week breaks through many of those presuppositions. With its passion for personal and political transformation, this book will surprise you.
Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. This is a wonderful, literary, and tender memoir of the pastoral life—and Ms. Brown Taylor’s eventual exit from her pulpit to become a college professor. It is not, however, a story of loss. Instead, she writes of “leaving church” to find a broader participation in the priesthood of all believers, the “human church,” to which we all belong. She raises some difficult questions—that will upset some readers—in an inviting and intelligent way.
Tempting Faith, by David Kuo. Not only is Kuo’s book an honest assessment of religion in the Bush Administration, but it stands with Chuck Colson’s Born Again and Mark Hatfield’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place as a classic of evangelical spiritual memoir in relation to politics. Kudos to Kuo for both strong content and reinvigorating an important genre in spiritual autobiography.
Mind the Light, by J. Brent Bill. This is not a “big” book. Rather, it is, like Bill’s earlier piece, Holy Silence, a small, gentle take on Quaker spirituality. He walks his readers through a path to encounter God’s light—complete with “illuminating” exercises for individuals and groups. A refreshing book full of good news—especially in contrast to all the darkness in the world today.
Both The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr and The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner examine important issues in understanding tensions between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Although very different, one scholarly (Nasr) and the other deeply personal (Idliby et al), these books move from theory and theology to the impact of religious difference in the contemporary world.
Finally, All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the fifth in her Reverend Clare Fergusson mystery series—and it is clearly the best. Here, the priest-detective becomes a suspect in the murder of her almost-lover’s wife and the narrative is full of ruminations on doubt, sin, and guilt. And the mystery is appropriately grim and grisly with an ending that I never could have guessed. Spencer-Fleming left me breathless waiting for the next installment!
A Godly Hero, by Michael Kazin
To the Mountaintop, by Stewart Burns
For the Nations, by John Howard Yoder
The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Wellstone
Gandhi and Beyond, by David Cortright
At Canaan’s Edge, Taylor Branch
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.)
Much as I love him, the length and depth of McLaren’s list makes me sick. Hey, some of us have school-aged kids over here!
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs
The Singularity Is Near, by Ray Kurzweil
Paradise Lost, by John Milton
In 2006 I read so many excellent books, old and new. Here are about 20 of my favorites … in no order of importance:
A Passion for Islam, by Caryle Murphy
No God But God, by Reza Aslan
The Great Turning, by David C. Korten
Beyond Growth, by Herman E. Daly
A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby K. Payne
Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
Chronicles, by Bob Dylan
Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, by Leonardo Boff
Christ the Liberator, by Jon Sobrino
A Future for Africa, by Emmanuel M. Katongole
Sex and the Single Savior, by Dale . B Martin
Jesus and Empire, by Richard A. Horsley
God and Empire, John Dominic Crossan
How (not) to Speak of God, by Peter Rollins
Irresistable Revolution, by Shane Claiborne
There have been many other good books too, but it’s hard to know when to stop! The best of the best, for me, was Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, by Leonardo Boff. It filled my mind and heart with worship.
This first list is a few books I got into this year and below that, some I carry around all the time.
Torture and the Eucharist, by Willam Cavanaugh
An Ethic for Christians and other Aliens in a Strange Land, by William Stringfellow
Wendell Berry Essays
The Paradise of God, by Norman Wirzba
Myth of a Christian Nation, by Greg Boyd
From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank: The Complete Guide to Using Vegetable Oil as an Alternative Fuel, by Joshua Tickell, Kaia Tickell, and Kaia Roman
Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ, by Klaus Wengst
A Peculiar People, by Rodney Clapp
Early Christians in their Own Words, by Eberhard Arnold (editor)
Daniel Berrigan Poetry
The Politics of Jesus, by John H. Yoder
Selected Writings, by Dorothy Day
Jesus and Empire, by Richard Horsley
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
The Powers that Be, by Walter Wink (and his trilogy)
Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman
Is it Okay to Call God Mother, by Paul Smith
Let Justice Roll Down, by John Perkins
Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Martin Luther King Jr. sermons and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
The Simple Path, by Mother Teresa
Little Flowers, by St. Francis of Assisi
I do enough heavy reading professionally – when I read for pleasure, I’m looking for a good novel, or very entertaining non-fiction. These five are guaranteed beach, holiday, or plane reading:
My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood, by Christine Rosen
Black Swan Green: A Novel, by David Mitchell
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl
The History of Love: A Novel, by Nicole Krauss
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy
The Things they Carried, by Tim O’Brien
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
How (Not) to Speak of God, by Peter Rollins
Philosophy and Theology, by John D. Caputo
You can read capsule reviews with the full article, but here are the titles:
Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World, edited by Pamela Brubaker, Rebecca Todd Peters, and Laura Stivers
Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, series edited by Jonathan Montaldo and Robert Toth
Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System by Laura Magnani and Harmon Wray
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey
Donegal Suite, by John McNamee
Encountering Ecclesiastes, by James Limburg
The New Friars: The Emerging Movement Serving the World’s Poor, by Scott Bessenecker
Vital Christianity: Spirituality, Justice, and Christian Practice, edited by David L. Weaver-Zercher and William H. Willimon