Top ten books of 2009
December 31, 2009
Starting with last year, I decided to try each year to write a post on some of the books I’ve read during the year. On a fairly regular basis, I write posts about individual books, and will certainly continue to do this.
But picking a few lets me look back on the thoughts that have impacted me the most, and hopefully try to figure out how my life is different because of them, and how it should be if it isn’t. This year I tried to narrow it down to ten.
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
This book shook me to my core. I can’t say it enough. I have still not recovered, and hope I never do. have loved all of Don Miller’s books, but none have had the impact on my thought processes, dreams, and way I want to live my life that this one has. It is a book to read, ponder, and read again. Live a beautiful story.
Drops Like Stars
I put this here as a book, though in my mind I have the event as well, which I assume will be made into a DVD at some point. It is a beautiful work, and for me it was made so much more poignant by the interplay between it and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In itself, it is powerful – the images of engaging the suffering of others, and also of what to do about our own suffering, are images that can teach and inspire.
Red Moon Rising
I’ve been familiar with 24-7 Prayer as an organization for almost ten years, and have always loved the things they do. Additionally, one of my favorite ministries became a 24-7 Boiler Room. But regardless, for some reason I hadn’t read this book until this year. It is a beautiful story, and these folks are a beautiful part of the emerging church.
The Practice of the Presence of God
This one is a hard read. It is a very small book, and very cheap (it’s always less than $6). But it is hard, even so, because to me it feels like the awareness of, and participation in, the presence of God that Brother Lawrence experienced is unattainable. But I am reminded, again and again, that he was a cook in a monastery kitchen. That he didn’t see his experience as anything other than what is available to all followers of Jesus. And I want that. It’s among the beautiful things that are presented by the Pentecostal movement, in its best moments, as well as mystics and other folks like Brother Lawrence (it is important for Pentecostals to be reminded that they do not have anything close to a monopoly on this kind of life). I’m not there, but I want to be.
The Out of Bounds Church?
Steve Taylor is a pioneer in the emerging church, and this demonstrates it. I was late coming to this book, but it is still incredibly relevant. It is a missiological book, and God moves throughout it. I can’t recommend it enough, as a vision of what the church can be.
The Justice Project
This is another one that shook me. Multiple chapters contain images and thoughts that I can’t get out of my head – from racism as our national demon, to our need to come to the table with Native Americans, to justice as the undeconstructible reality. Each voice in this book offers us something that we desperately need to get into our lives. It is one to ponder, over and over again.
How (Not) to Speak of God
I briefly got to meet Peter late last year when he came to Atlanta. I had followed his blog for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to reading any of his books. This one is a wonderful thing, and is still needed by those of us in the emerging church seeking a generative theology, and how it can work itself out in practice (an example, based on Ikon, is the second half of this book). It’s a beautiful theology that Peter presents to us – flowing out of the Event of God. It is humble in realizing that we cannot speak of God, but passionate in realizing that we must speak of God, even as we know that we cannot.
The Prophetic Imagination
My book reading is a strange process, and this is a good example of that. I’ve wanted to read this since one of my favorite professors in college introduced me to Brueggemann’s writing in general, and this one in particular, but I didn’t get around to it until this year. The insight and significance that this book has for an understanding of the prophetic vein through Scripture, and how to engage in prophetic ministry, is simply invaluable. It cannot be read too much.
I read this one right after reading The Justice Project, and in my mind the two talked together. This one looks at issues from coffee to clothing to cars, and asks us to look at our involvement in them from a desire for justice. It has the potential to shake up countless areas of our lives, and it should.
Surprised By Hope
N. T. Wright
I’m generally a big fan of N. T. Wright’s thoughts, and find him to be much more compelling than lots of other leading New Testament scholars. This book deals with the resurrection of Jesus – the evidences for it and the theological reasons for it, none of which are new but certainly are expressed better than most. But it also teaches us how to shape our lives, considering that this event began the kingdom of God into which we are to live.