Top Ten Best Books: 2013
I read a lot. In the pre-digital world I would have certainly struggled to remember every book I had read in a given year. Now though I need only scroll through my Amazon purchases of 2013 and they are laid out in convenient chronological order.
Some challenged my faith (Peter Rollins), some made me laugh out loud (thanks Billy Crystal), and one even reminded me why I left politics (Double Down).
So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 Books of 2013:
1) The Idolatry of God by Peter Rollins
Get ready for a “faith” roller coaster ride that will have you examining some of your own “agendas” for seeking God. Theologian Peter Rollins will challenge your notions about even what we are supposed to receive in our relationship with Him. If we are looking for God to fill some hole in our soul, we are really just seeing God as an object to fill a need. Read my full review here.
2) Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin & John Heilemann
As an ex-political junkie the idea of literally being a fly on the wall inside the campaigns of the 2012 presidential nominees was most appealing. Obama, Romney, Huntsman as well as the rest of the circus that clamored for the GOP nomination (Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich etc.) are all examined, with some coming out looking better than others. I could hardly put the book down and must admit to the attraction of feeling like you are included in the “inner circle” of presidential politics.
3) Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber has an understanding of God’s grace that blows me away. Part memoir, part Christian instruction, Pastrix is a series of anecdotal vignettes where Lutheran pastor Bolz-Weber lays bare her own struggles to minister to a flock of ragtags in Denver Colorado. I have never seen a Christian minister who was more open and honest about their own personal struggles and feelings!
4) Song of Spiderman: The Inside Story of the most Controversial Musical in Broadway History
This book I couldn’t put down. It had it all; mammoth musical, mammoth egos, mammoth creative differences all with the knowledge of a looming mammoth train wreck. As an added bonus you get an inside look at U2’s Bono and The Edge who stand out in their attempt to rise above the fray and bring a little peace and understanding to the conflicting parties. If you are a “creative type” you’ll want to check this one out!
5) The Gospel in Twenty Questions by Paul Ellis
If you are a Christian of any number of years chances are you are mixing a dash of Old Covenant Law in with the grace Christ has given you. As a pastor Paul Ellis admits he mixed law with grace in his teachings for years. Once he saw grace more fully he has been on a singular mission to help older Christians break free of performance based faith as well as for new believers to never have to experience the chains the law puts on God’s people. The Gospel in Twenty Questions is a resource book you come back to again and again. Check out my full review here.
6) Still Foolin’ Them: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys by Billy Crystal
Maybe because I’m getting older I really enjoy Billy Crystal musing about life as he gets older; and then console myself that I’m 18 years younger than he is! I literally laughed out loud a number of times during this book…and that’s hard to do when reading. The book gives you a little insight into Crystal’s work on When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, his Oscar hosting gigs, and working with Robert De Niro. You also read why he had a less than stellar opinion of Orson Wells and Charles Bronson. And hey, the guy is still in love with the wife of his youth which always wins me over. (Warning though, he starts the book off with some rough language which fortunately tapers off later)
7) The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd
Pastor Greg Boyd couldn’t have won many friends when he prodded some of the most sensitive areas of the American Christian identity. In Myth Boyd compares and contrasts the American Christian culture with the pattern Jesus set for his followers. He argues that Americans in particular have done a great disservice to the Kingdom of God by having the church grasp for political power in ways that destroy the credibility of our witness. Rather than being viewed as Christ like examples of loving servants, the church is instead viewed with disdain as “behavior police” attempting impose a particular strain of morality on society. Yep, that didn’t make him Pastor of the Year in middle America
Read my complete review here
8) 11/22/63 by Stephen King
The title may seem confusing until you realize it’s the date that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. 11/22/63 is a time travel adventure by Stephen King where an ordinary high school English teacher finds a portal to the year 1957. The story unfolds as a task to stop the assassination of the president but as the hero can only arrive six years before the event…well suffice to say a lot can happen in six years. Stephen King understands the human condition like few others and has a gift for nostalgia that makes a description of a root beer float in 1957 seem like heaven. One of my fav books of the year for sure!
9) It’s All About Jesus: What They Didn’t Tell You in Church by Daniel Silva
It’s All About Jesus is really all about Silva throwing the gauntlet down on “do it yourself” man-made religion. He expertly peels away the religiosity that separates God’s people from Jesus like a man peeling an orange to get at the sweet fruit beneath. From the danger of basing our relationship on God with our “feelings” to the dependency our temple “church system” has created in followers of Christ by providing a weekly “fix” that often substitutes for a real relationship with Jesus. I haven’t “highlighted” more in a book all year.
Read my complete review here
10) Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed by Jay Bakker
Throughout the book Bakker unpacks an understanding of God’s grace that has transformed his life (including being freed from alcoholism) and which he has humbly embraced and shares with others. He argues that it is really a limiting of grace or putting conditions on grace that robs grace of it’s power to transform lives for Christ.
Read my complete review here
Ok, I read more than 10 good books this year so let me throw in a couple “honorable mentions” that could have made the list on a different day
* Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer
The first of a 5 part series tells the story of young Harry Clifton. As usual Archer’s tale of the trials and tribulations of Harry Clifton was full of page turning twists and turns. After a short break I’m certain I’ll be jumping head first into Book 2 Sins of the Father.
* What Do We Talk About When We Talk about God by Rob Bell
What We Talk About is essentially a really long article designed to help you see that God, through Jesus Christ, is accomplishing something on this Earth and that most people, Christians included, are completely blind to it. In fact his experience, and for that matter mine, is that people are not only blind to it, but will actively fight to keep that blindness because to admit “seeing” would require adjustments in us to difficult to contemplate.
There! Now you have something to think about reading this holiday and I’m already looking forward to 2014 in books!
Happy New Year!
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