2014: Highlights from a Year in Books

I read a lot. Books are kind of my thing. This was my best year of reading yet. That's not because I read a lot of books, though I did, but because I found great joy and wisdom in my reading. I learned how to read well, discovered the value of old classics and good fiction, rekindled my love of language through poetry, and fell in love with reading stories to my wife until she fell asleep on my chest. There was a time when I would have called myself a surfer, skier, backpacker, or adventurer, but never a reader. But alas, that's what three back surgeries and an itch for learning will do to you. So this year I became a reader, and it is well with my soul. 

I work for a church, serving with our community groups and mission department. Therefore, in addition to studying theology for the past few years, I spend lots of time reading about ministry philosophies, community development, poverty alleviation, and theology of mission. I kept at it in 2014. In fact, I had the undeserved honor of pre-reading a manuscript and writing a book recommendation for the first time. The book was Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, a training resource written by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in follow-up to another of my favorites, When Helping Hurts. That was a fun and encouraging first, especially as I spent the beginning of the year working on crafting Reality's Mission Philosophy, as well as a 200-page manuscript side project on a healthy spirituality of mission.

But by the Spring, I felt it was time to dabble outside the world of Evangelical theology. I've already stopped reading anything about missional this or missional that, on principle, but I expanded my fast and put down everything with mission in the title. Then I focused on literature, (especially the classics), poetry, modern secularism and philosophy, and a broader array of theology. It was awesome. 

Here is my complete 2014 reading list with Amazon links. And here are some reading lessons I learned this year.  Otherwise, here are the highlights.

The 2014 Book Shelf

The 2014 Book Shelf

Overall Highlights

  • Discovering Marilynn Robinson, my new favorite author
  • Being captivated by Steinbeck and East of Edenmy new favorite book
  • Celebrating the release of The Truest Thing About You, my friend Dave Lomas' first book
  • Finally getting around to studying Dallas Willard and his masterpiece, The Divine Conspiracy, which I dare to deem the best book about what it means to be a Christian since C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity

Best Reads

Fiction 

East of Eden, John Steinbeck 

The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley 

Literally everything by Marilynn Robinson. Seriously. HousekeepingGileadHome, and this year's Lila, written in that order, are all strikingly rich and profoundI recommend starting with Gilead, but Home, its sequel, is probably my favorite.

Runners Up

Moby Dick / The Great Divorce / Grapes of Wrath / Till We Have Faces

 

Nonfiction

The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard

My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman

How (Not) to be Secular, James K.A. Smith

Several Short Sentences About Writing, Verlyn Klinkenborg 

No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton

The Truest Thing About You, Dave Lomas (It's great, super-readable, and written by a friend!)

Runners Up

Soul Keeping / The World is Not Ours to Save