Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favorite Books of 2013

At the end of each year I like to look back at the books that I read during that year and to highlight those that stood out to me. Just to be clear, this list has nothing to do with books that came out in 2013. It only relates to books that I read this year. Some are new, and some are old. Here you go.

Fiction Top Ten
10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This novel has hit all kinds of bestseller lists. It is a very well-written novel from the perspective of a teenage girl with cancer. It follows her relationship with her boyfriend, another cancer patient. It deals very honestly with their experiences. It is dark and doesn't offer a lot of answers, but it does have beauty and promotes honesty (especially between adults and children).
9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I am not a big Sci-Fi fan, but I thought this book had layered themes and memorable characters. If you don't know, it takes place in the future and follows the story of a prodigy named Ender who is recruited to help save earth from aliens. My wife and son have read some of the follow-ups to the book. I will probably delve into those later on. I also saw the movie. It was not great, but it did a decent job of telling the story.
8 & 7. Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. I put these together because they are part 1 and part 2 of a single story about time traveling historians who get stuck in WWII. Connie Willis is my wife's favorite author, and I read these mostly to be able to talk about them with her. I ended up loving them. Great characters and a great exploration of classic themes relating to determinism and fr
ee-will. They aren't quick reads, but they were worth the time.
6 & 5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Like I said, these aren't books that came out this year. These were my first Jules Verne reads. I loved them both (especially Around the World). Great adventure stories.
4. The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace. My all-time favorite movie is Big Fish, which is based on a novel by Daniel Wallace. That got me curious about his other books, so I ordered this one. It's a quasi-mythical story about two sisters who have a complicated relationship in a quasi-mystical town called Roam. I found it thoroughly intriguing and moving. It deals with themes of love and pain and jealousy and forgiveness. In some loose ways it reminded me of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces (an all-time favorite).
3. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I got this book on a whim because it was cheap on kindle and it sounded interesting. I liked it enough that I am currently reading my second Walker Percy novel. As I read The Moviegoer I found it puzzling, difficult, and totally engrossing. I wasn't always sure what it was about, but I couldn't look away. It is a philosophical novel that follows characters who are trying to make sense of life. I think I would need to read it again to get a greater sense of it, but it was certainly a memorable read.
2. An Unfinished Season by Ward Just. This was another kindle deal purchase. This novel is a coming-of-age story that I found totally involving. The narrator felt like a realistic and vivid character. I thought that the novel dealt powerfully with father/son themes, and also explored the mystery surrounding male/female relationships. This novel was a gem.
1. Watership Down by Richard Adams. For some of you readers out there, I feel a bit embarrassed that I had no knowledge of this book. I only found out about it because a friend recommended it. It's about adventure, alienation, and . . . rabbits. It felt to me like a cross betwThe Lord of the Rings and The Wind in the Willows (both favorites of mine). It was a great and memorable book.

Non-fiction Top Ten
10. Five Views on Law and Gospel edited by Greg Bahnsen. I enjoy reading these books that present different views. This one was timely in light of teaching through Galatians at church. It also helped me to understand the different views and better solidify my own position on the subject. If you have never read any of these kinds of books, they are worth checking out. If there is a Christian debate on a subject, there is certain to be one of these books on it.
9. Hate Mail From Cheerleaders by Rick Reilly. This book was a lot of fun. Rick Reilly is a witty and insightful sports columnist and this book was 100 of his favorite columns. Reading it was like eating candy.
8. Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley. I read this after attending the Drive Conference at North Point Church (the church that Stanley pastors). It included an honest narrative of his own personal journey as well as some great thoughts about how to attempt to reach a wide range of people, while still leading them into depth as they follow Jesus.
7. The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers. This was another book that I read because of my wife. It was a rich book about how our minds are a reflection of the mind of God. It gives insight into how Sayers approached her fiction (she was a successful mystery writer).
6. What Is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung. This book is about exactly what the title says. We live in a time when different opinions are emerging about the purpose and priorities of the church. I felt like DeYoung promoted his conclusions while being relatively fair to those who take a different viewpoint. I didn't always agree with him, but I thought it was a worthwhile read.
5. The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister. Another book whose title describes it quite accurately. It gave insight into one young woman's experience and tragedy, and it also dealt with themes of forgiveness and sacrifice.
4. Telling Secrets by Frederich Buechner. This book explored how telling our secrets is the path to finding healing from our pain. That said, Buechner certain practices what he preaches. He invites us to find healing through revealing our pain to others and being honest about it. This was timely for me because this is a lot of what God has been doing in my life this year.
3. Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. This book is a sort-of modern Mere Christianity. Wright seeks to explain the basics of Christianity in a way the invites non-Christians to believe, and also informs believers to grasp the heart of their faith. Very worthwhile.
2. Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge. Sarah is a close friend of my wife, and this was a memoir about her experience with breast cancer, and also her experience befriending a Somali refugee family. It was honest and beautiful and redemptive.
1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. This may be a strange book to put at the top of my list, but it was unique and helpful. While the author does not remotely subscribe to a Christian worldview, he reflects truths about humanity. The basic premise is that intelligence is more than just IQ. Social awareness and delayed gratification and empathy play a major part in being smart in a more holistic way. The book has good applications for leadership, for marriage, and for getting attuned to what is going on behind our own actions as well as those of other people.

There you go. Feel free to share books that you read. I would love to get more ideas.