I did not read anywhere near as much this year as I normally do. Only 31 books at this point – somewhat short of the 38 I read last year. However, I gave 10 of those books a 5/5 rating, which is up on last year’s 7. So, fewer books read, but perhaps a more satisfying reading year anyway.
Here are my top three:
1) Dirty Glory, by Pete Greig
The second book telling the story of the 24-7 prayer movement set up by Pete Greig. (Red Moon Rising was the first. I’m reading it now, and it’s excellent, but the second is better.) It tells story after story of God at work through those who are foolish (or courageous) enough to give him free rein with their lives. It’s mad, it’s exciting, it’s written in an easy style, bubbling over with warmth and humour, and it will make you want to start praying and seeing what God will do.
2) Real, by Catherine Parks
I’ve written about this already, both on this blog and on ThinkTheology, so I won’t go on too long here. Suffice it to say this is an excellent book for anyone looking for deeper relationships, and for anyone involved in counselling, mentoring or supporting Christians in life. Well worth reading.
3) A War of Loves, by David Bennett
I just finished reading this. It’s David Bennett’s account of how he went from being an atheistic gay activist to becoming a fully sold-out for God celibate Christian. It is a powerful read. David is very honest about his struggles to trust a God who, he thought, made him gay and then condemned him for it. It is not an easy thing to come to God knowing that it will mean surrendering some things you hold very dear, but he finds that God is more than sufficient for his needs: “I would never trade the depth of intimacy and freedom I have experienced in celibacy for a gay relationship, and long for the day that the Church celebrates what I have been given.” You can read more quotes from the book here, which will give you a good idea of what to expect.
And an honourable mention goes to Global Humility, by Andy McCullough. It didn’t quite scrape a 5, but I think that was due more to editing than writing or content. It is about the humility needed when taking the Bible to cross-cultural contexts (which for most of us should include our local churches, which are likely to have different generations, socio-economic groups and political leanings in them). What a given Bible story, parable or passage obviously means to you might be a completely bizarre interpretation to someone from another culture. Who are we to say our understanding is correct? While I knew some of this from reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes last year, I found Global Humility to be much more accessible – and much shorter – but also more worship-inducing. While the former took a very academic approach, and appealed to the grammar geek in me, the latter was entirely aimed at mission, and thus on revealing how the scriptures point to Jesus in more ways than we might at first imagine. I’ve written more about that on ThinkTheology today. If you’re involved in cross-cultural ministry at all, or just want to understand something beyond your cultural blinkers, I highly recommend it.
Best of the rest
And in case you’re interested, here are the rest of my 5* reads (in the order I read them):
Cooking in a Bedsitter, Katharine Whitehorn, (Cookery book)
Delightful slice of social history. And useful, too!
Five Red Herrings, Dorothy L Sayers, (Crime novel)
Best Lord Peter Wimsey book so far. Really cracking mystery that keeps you guessing (even when you know who the culprit must be)
Why I am not going to buy a computer, Wendell Berry, (Essays)
A miniature book containing two essays on just the sorts of issues I love!
The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller, (Non-fiction)
Very good. But barely longer than a blog post!
God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew, (Biography)
Inspiring and faith-building true story of a man who smuggled Bibles into Eastern Europe.
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, (Biography/non-fiction)
A lawyer’s accounts of his work with death-row prisoners in the Deep South. So challenging, though it has a hopeful edge. Baffling and very sad to see the utterly inhumane, illegal treatment of black and/or mentally ill people in our day and age.
The Life You Never Expected, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, (Biography)
A re-read, as research for my book. So well-written and helpful.
What has been your reading highlight this year?