Tag Archives: Books

Top 5 Books of 2009

With 2009 wrapped up I figured I would tell the world which books were my favorite.  I don’t feel like I read as much this year, primarily because I was teaching the whole year and taking college classes through the fall to get my certification.  But here are the books I did get to and thoroughly enjoyed!

1)  Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I have had about this book!  Outliers discusses the factors that lead to success, many times factors that you would never have suspected.  Gladwell uses all kinds of crazy data to show connections between these factors and success.  I highly recommend this book for anyone in the education field.  At the time I read it I was teaching gifted students and he specifically discusses the correlation between a person’s IQ and success.

2)  The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins – Earlier in the year I had mentioned this book.  It is so refreshing as it is far from other Christian books you will find on the shelves of bookstores.  Unfortunately, I am not sure you will find it in any bookstore that I know of.  I had to order it out of Amazon.  The book is a collection of parables meant to change your heart, not your mind.  Rollins points out in the introduction that most religious information is meant to change your mind or educate you, allowing someone to hear a message without heeding it.  Parables, on the other hand, “represent a mode of communicating that cannot be heard without being heeded.”  The book is full of 33 parables that will challenge you and resonate within you.  The ones that haved stayed with me, that I think about and remember, are “The Heretic”, “Salvation for a Demon”, and “Mansions”.

3)  The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson – First, let me say thank you to Robert Jordan (real name James Rigney Jr.) for this amazing series and that you will be missed but you are in a better place!  Second, thank God for Brandon Sanderson!  By now, every fan of the series knows that after Mr. Jordan passed his wife handed the reins over to Brandon Sanderson and like every Wheel of Time fan I didn’t have much faith in him.  I don’t think I have ever been so glad I was wrong in my life!  Sanderson did a great job with all the characters save one.  In fact, I think he may have done a better job with Egwene’s character than Jordan did.  The one character he fumbled, very unfortunately so, is Mat Cauthon.  Mat was my favorite character in the series and the differences in his personality were very obvious.  Hopefully this can be corrected in the final two novels, but if not it is a sacrifice I am willing to make at this point.  This book also had a lot of action in it, finally!  In fact, this book has some of the best action scenes and twists since the first half of the series.  Twelve books down and two to go!

4)  Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – This has the most depth of any fantasy novel I have ever read.  Kay is definitely not the typical fantasy author, the tone of his novels is much more serious and engaging.  If the average fantasy novel is like an average beer, Tigana is like a fine wine – unique, mature, and meant to be enjoyed slowly.  The story is set in a land divided by generations of tradition that is conquered by two socerer tyrants.  Kay follows several individuals that are striving for freedom, for a memory of freedom.  Along the way you are drawn into the depths of the characters, each with a story that is many times powerful and traumatic.  The novel had a few themes, but the main theme was memory and the power and necessity of it.  Kay wraps the book up nicely with an afterword that explains these themes and where he got the ideas for the novel.

5)  How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins – Ahhh, I need to reread this book.  I read it at the beginning of last year and so it is not as fresh in my mind as the other books on this list.  Rollins has a PHD in postmodern thought and in this book he tries to show postmodernism as a way forward by exposing the problem of Christianity based on modern logic of the last couple hundred years.  The most powerful part for me is when Rollins writes about thinking about God as object vs. subject.  He says the problem with theology is that we view God as an object and when we objectify something we are able to hold it at a distance, measure it, weigh it, and (at least try to) make impartial judgements about it.  But God is not meant to be experienced as a distant object but as a radical subject that has captured our hearts and saved our souls.  A great book that is very thought provoking and challenging.

So what are the best books you read in 2009?  Let me know, I’d love to hear recommendations!


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More Books!!!

Earlier I listed a couple of books that I had received for Christmas.  Following are the rest of the books that I received and hope to read in the coming year:

  • How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins – already read this one since I got it!  It was excellent and my friend Chris and I plan on creating a discussion group at Starbucks to read through it together and discuss it.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – A book that has been highly recommended from several friends.
  • Simply Christian by N.T. Wright – Brad, a friend of mine, has always been a fan of Wright’s so I have wanted to get into his writing.  This may have not been the best book in which to accomplish that goal, but it’ll do.
  • What Would Jesus Deconstruct by John Caputo – Caputo is one of the premier continental philosophers in the U.S. and has always been recommended by one of my former professors.  Speaking of which…
  • Interstices of the Sublime by Clayton Crockett – Dr. Crockett was one of my Religion professors at University of Central Arkansas.  In this text he brings together three modes of thought:  psychoanalytic theory (Lacan & Freud), continental philosphy (Zizek), and theology.
  • The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay – As I think I have said somewhere on this blog before, I find missional ecclesiology and theology to be very refreshing and challenging.  I am also interested in it because Hugh Halter is involved with Church Resource Ministries, an organization that I have a lot of respect for and would enjoy being a part of (Nieucommunities, who Amber and I went to Vancouver with, is one branch of CRM).
  • Creating a Poverty Free World by Muhammad Yunus – As wierd as this sounds, I have become fascinated by the world of economics.  I still absolutely hate math and numbers, buy when I listen to men like Yunus and Jeffrey Sachs I genuinely believe we have the ability to end poverty if we can get over our greed and move beyond consumer capitalism (I emphasize consumer because I still believe that capitalism is a good system, but can be very destructive in its current form).  Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank and is one of the men responsible for the micro-lending revolution in third world countries.
  • Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw – My wife and I had the privelege of hearing Shane and Chris speak in Orlando.  When you read this book or hear these men speak you must call into question the role of Christians in politics.  What role do we play?  Why do we constantly seek political power?  And a myriad of other questions.  Perhaps the most challenging book on Church and Politics out there!

So these are the books I will be reading over the next year along with the other two that my wife bought me that I mentioned before Christmas and some other that I have not finished yet (The Divine Conspiracy – hopefully I will make it through that over the summer).  Hopefully I will blog through a few of them because I would love to get some input from others on some of the ideas I will be engaging.

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Those close to me know that I always ask for books for Christmas. Its nerdy, I know, and I think it annoys my wife, but I do it because I get stocked up for the following year. So Amber bought me my first two books:

  • Foolishness to the Greeks by Leslie Newbigin – I always encourage my family to buy me used copies and this one is used.  I love it because it is full of underlined sections and commentary by the previous owners.  Newbigin argues that Christians must now approach the western world as a mission field.  The book was written in the 1980s and from what I can gather from other books I have read on the subject, is one of the foundational books for missional theology and the missional movement.
  • The Great Giveaway by David Fitch – Fitch is one of my favorite bloggers.  I remember the first time I found his site he had a post up about politics and Zizek, which in my mind, any pastor/theologian who engages Zizek in a constructive way is worth respect and worth reading.  The book is essentially about how the modern evangelical church has given away so much of what it means to be the church (be it to big business, parachurch organizations, psychotherapy, or consumer capitalism) that it has become barely distinguishable from other societal institutions.

So these are the first of hopefully many that I will be reading in 2009!

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Best Books of 2007

The title is a little misleading because not all of the books were published in 2007. The fact that some of them were is rather irrelevant anyway. What I mean is the best books that I read in 2007. These books have all in some way expanded the way I see and understand the world, church, mission, and following Jesus. Here is a list of my top five:

1. The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne

This has been the most refreshing book since Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, only ten times as challenging. Shane’s struggle to find a middle way between the left and the right (in much more than just the political sense) is both captivating and convicting. The pages are full of reminders that God’s radical love is actualized in His community reaching out to a lost and broken world, not just in special outreach events, but in the way we live of lives. This book is highly recommended for anyone, but I warn you this book “will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable, and invite believers to change the world with Christ’s radical love.”

2. Conspiracy of Kindness, Steve Sjogren

This book was introduced to me this past year by Wayne Cordova, Outreach Pastor at Crosspoint Church. My wife and I intern under Wayne and this was one of the first books he had me read when we arrived. It helped me understand his heart and the kind of ministry he wants to impact Spring Hill with. The book is for anyone who has ever felt nauseous when their church mentions the word outreach. I feel like I grew up subconciously knowing that outreach sucked and was embarrassing, not only for me but it did not seem to honor God very much. This book has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I know longer dread outreach, but enjoy it and look forward to it. The basic idea is servant evangelism. So instead of annoying people, you leave them with a smile. Please check out the book and begin to share God’s love in your community through service (or check out Steve’s website at servantevangelism.com).

3. No Perfect People Allowed, John Burke

This is one of the best books that I have read that deal with practical ministry in a postmodern context. Through telling stories of those God has brought to Gateway Church in Austin, TX, pastor John Burke relates how he and his staff reach the postmodern generation of twenty and thirty somethings. The overall theme is creating a culture within the church that is welcoming, accepting, and transformative all at the same time. He hits all of the issues confronting this generation: cynicism, mistrust, being tolerant but not relative, finding truth, brokenness, and aloneness. Highly recommended for anyone who is working with or a part of that generation or who simply wants to understand how this generation experiences/approaches/deals with life.

4. Glocalization, Bob Roberts

This book has broadened my look/understanding of world missions in today’s context. There is an enormous cry today to end poverty. Bob believes that the church should be at the forefront, not the fringes, of that movement. What he suggests is that large denominational and interdenominational programs will not change the world, but the people sitting in the pews of the church. Bob advocates that church leaders new role is teaching Christ-followers to use their vocations as a means of doing missions overseas in such a way that they are being light and salt while at the same time making the world a better place right now. For me, I never felt right about doing only the type of missions that meets a person’s spiritual need while ignoring his/her physical needs. Jesus clearly met both needs in his ministry. His message of hope was meant for this world, the here and now, as much as for the next world. Also, there have been many changes in the last twenty years that force us to ask new questions when it comes to our mission in the world. The changes that have taken place are called globalization. And it is in such a context that Bob has created an excellent model for Christians to transform the world both spiritually and physically.

5. The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs

There are two feelings that kept me reading this book all the way to the end, excitement and hope. It is written by an economist, so honestly it has its dry moments, but the strong belief that Sachs has that the world can be a better place keeps coming through. As Christians we must learn to love our neighbors the way Jesus intended us to. We must also come to grips with two realities: we do not know how and we have sucked at it! What I mean by that is loving our neighbors does not mean shoving Western ideas/models/structures down their throat. We have only recently come out of the Colonial era and must realize our mistake, that the church was more a part of and not a barrier to the horrors of colonialism. Part of loving our neighbors means allowing them to have the same opportunities we do. We are all equal, according to Paul, and that should include economically. Sachs explains that building up the third world economically does not necessarily mean a decrease in our own wealth, but instead would create a safer, freer world for everyone to enjoy. This book has broadened my view in the world and I think it will for anyone who picks it up.

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