It was a rough year for my reading life as I was only able to read (& finish) 11 books. But out of those 11, I certainly came across some good stuff. Here are my top four books I read this year:
1. Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (2009)
This is a book that has reshaped the way I think about everything I do. It can be a little dense at times, but it’s well worth it. Smith’s basic argument is that we all partake in liturgies whether we know it or not. These liturgies (Ex. going to the mall) shape our identities (Ex. making us consumers) by forming our desires. Basically, what we do defines who we are and what we love. We are all desiring some form of the kingdom and we need to learn how God invites us to follow Him toward the true kingdom.
“to be human is to desire ‘the kingdom,’ some version of the kingdom, which is the aim of our quest. Every one of us is on a kind of Arthurian quest for ‘the Holy Grail,’ that hoped-for, longed-for, dreamed-of picture of the good life—the realm of human flourishing—that we pursue without ceasing.”
2. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller (2011)
This book has been incredibly helpful in preparing Lauren and I for spending our lives together. The Kellers look at what marriage is for, what it means to be married, and how a marriage can last. And I think they do a great job at setting expectations for what a biblical marriage is, in contrast to the American view of marriage.
“…here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne.’”
3. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen (1992)
Because of the subtitle, I put off this book for a little while. I’m not really into leadership books per se. After reading it, I see that it is about leadership in a way, but is about so much more. Nouwen looks at the three temptations of Jesus and talks about the temptations that many of us face.
“These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self—the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things—and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.”
4. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyoder Dostoevsky (1880)
I really like Dostoevsky. This is my third novel of his and I love the way he develops characters and tells a story. I was a little intimidated by the size of this one, but loved going through it. It’s a story of three very different brothers and their father as they experience love, battle hate, and wrestle with many existential questions.
“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”
And here is the remainder of my top 10 list:
5. Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community by Wendell Berry (1994)
6. Cry of the Soul by Dan Allender & Tremper Longman (1999)
7. Socrates Meets Jesus by Peter Kreeft (2002)
8. Gray Matters by Brett McCracken (2013)
9. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
10. Surrender to Love by David Benner (2003)