Books of 2008
January 1, 2009
I read a decent number of books in 2008, and I wanted to draw attention to some of them. I wrote specific posts about several of these, so I’ll write less about each one in this post.
This is one of those books that was sitting on my shelf for a while, waiting for other books to be finished. When I came to it last week, as often happens, it was at exactly the right time in my life. My thoughts were already moving in many of these directions, and my thoughts and dreams were affirmed, challenged, and expanded.
There are a good number of similarities between this book and Jesus for President, especially in the bold affirmation that active nonviolence is the way that Christians should live, regardless of whether it is practical, but both books stand well on their own.
Aside from the writings on nonviolence, I have loved the thoughts on community, love in activism, and the danger of following Jesus. All of these things have been speaking into my life in many different ways.
In the last few months, I have become more involved in user experience as part of my role as a designer. I’ve learned that moving from web standards into user-centered design is a common transition. This book has helped a lot of people on that transition.
I found a lot of material that I already knew, but I learned a good deal about usability testing, navigation, and similar things. I’d recommend it to any designer, especially ones who are new to the web standards or user-centered design worlds.
Rob Bell & Don Golden
I’ve been a big fan of all of Rob Bell’s books, and videos. Some are saying that this one is his best. Maybe it is. Either way, I loved it as an explanation of New Exodus theology. It gives insights into both the Old and New Testament’s primacy on deliverance of the oppressed as always close to the heart of God, and in light of this it spends a lot of time asking us to reject the narrative of Empire that frames much of our existence in favor of the God who puts “blood on the doorposts of the universe.”
This is the beginning of a series, and thus it goes into why we should practice spiritual disciplines. It is very different from other books on the same subject, and I enjoyed this. Many of these disciplines are difficult for me, so it is often hard to read books about them. But it is necessary, and I can see results coming as these things move into my life.
I really enjoyed the last part of this book. There are great thoughts on creativity as a part of leadership, living within tension (which has been a big thing for me to learn recently), and a number of other things. Tim is especially interesting to me because he is a pastor as well as a designer.
This one is a fascinating book that talks about a lot of things in addition to sexuality, and spends a lot of time talking about the connections we have. One of the things that has stuck with me is his treatment of something as simple as, “Do not steal.”
In the New Testament, he believes, the reason for telling those who steal to do something good with their hands is that they will get more thrill out of doing this than out of stealing. So, stealing is really about something much bigger. The book is full of these kinds of things, and is a great one.
Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff
This was one that my department at work was asked to read, as a part of the marketing attempts to move into social media. I think it was an okay book for this purpose. That being said, I found myself resonating with Don Norman‘s thoughts that designers and businesspeople need to communicate more. Designers have moved past most of the stuff in this book, and in the areas of social media it is obvious that businesspeople are a few years behind.
Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw
I saw the tour for this book at Cornerstone before I had read the book, as it was sitting on my shelf at the time. I loved both. For one thing, the visual design of the book is among the best I have ever seen, and greatly enhanced the content. Aside from that, the book is a great description of the political message of Jesus in all its nonviolent, anti-imperial, subversive glory, which has been hidden by the majority of the church for over a thousand years.
One of the great things about this book is that it is not written as a “scholarly” book, but it has a huge number of footnotes for those who are interested in such things.
Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch
This one does more to express my heart for the church in postmodern culture than any book I’ve ever read. I tried to write a blog post about it, but there was too much material to pick anything specific to blog about. Amazing book.
For me, this book had a lot of material that I already knew, and some that I didn’t. The strength of it, for me, lies in the explanation and deconstruction of the “suicide machine” that drives the world, especially America, and in the explanation of the framing story of Jesus as directly opposed to the suicide machine. I think about the implications of this often, and am still trying to figure out where they are leading me.
Jeffrey Sachs is an economist who cares about poverty, and is qualified to present solutions for it. The book does an incredible job at giving an unbiased look at why extreme poverty exists in the places and to the extents that it does, and then presents practical solutions. It is a bit of a downer at times, because many wealthy nations (including the United States) bought into these ideas and made commitments, and have not come remotely close to following through on them.
In light of this, he may come off as a bit of an idealist, and many would say that he shows the futility of asking governments to help the world. I say that if one has two options (grassroots action and government action, in this case) that one can attempt to use, use both to the fullest extent possible.
David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons
For those who are unaware of the reasons that Christians are disliked, and have a view that we are being persecuted unfairly, or that the church is really doing an okay job, this book is invaluable. It can and should shake a person to their core. Things are not okay, and there is solid data to explain what is not okay and why, as well as things that can be done about it.
I think for some, the material here is already obvious, but even then there is much to get out of it.
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works–and How It’s Transforming the American Economy
Wal-Mart is a difficult thing for me. For full disclosure: I buy groceries there. When I can, I instead go to the local farmer’s market, but aside from that I don’t feel that the ethics of grocery chains differ much, between the Wal-Marts and the Krogers of the world. I don’t buy clothes at Wal-Mart, as there are many more ethical alternatives.
Anyway. I got this book through work, and found it to be unlike any other business book I’ve read. It shows what is really an unbiased look at the world’s biggest company, and how it affects the world in good ways and bad ways. It resists easy categorizations by including as much data as possible and forces us to wrestle with the staggering numbers.
Dallas Willard is a constant challenge to me. His writings (at least, the theological ones, as I have not read his philosophical ones) tend to look at matters of spiritual disciplines, the messages that Jesus told, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
This particular one examines the lack of discipleship in Western Christianity, and defines what we are lacking as exactly what we are expected to have. Not what we can optionally have, or would be a good idea for us to have, but what we are naturally supposed to have.
Jakob Nielsen is one of those guys that designers have to be careful with. We cannot ignore his data, though we may have issues with some of his conclusions. I don’t think he values the aesthetics of design, as indicated by his website, but his insights into user behavior are incredibly valuable.
xxxchurch.com founder Craig Gross wrote this book to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones, and see that “the gutter” is where Jesus goes to heal people who know that their lives are messed up. It’s a good read, with great stories and insights.
This was meant to be a late 2008 post. But welcome to 2009.