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!