When I was in seminary, I got in the habit of reading a required text and then ordering two or three other books that were cited in the footnotes. This practice allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of a given topic or author, as well as helping my wife make new friends (she was on a first name basis with the UPS man who delivered books for my ever-growing library).
In 2019, I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of books (most as part of a writing project I am on the verge of completing). A couple of the books listed were reads that I rediscovered this year. While I had read those books before, I found them to be impactful in new ways when I re-read them this year. Finally, while I won’t be listing the titles I included in my post entitled “Five Books Every Christian Should Read,” each of those would rank amongst some of my favorite reads from 2019 as well.
So, here are my “Top 5” favorite books from 2019 (in no particular order).
- Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion- Hedges offers a compelling treatment of five illusions (literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and America). Hedges’s work does have sharp edges, yet his writing provides a unique, well-researched critique of some central themes in American thought. Though he doesn’t offer a “how to” guide for correcting course, I count that as part of the “charm” of his work. He highlights the depth of the challenges we face without offering simple solutions to them. He does’t smooth out the rough edges or the complexity and ambiguity, which I count as part of this book’s charm.
- Siddharth Kara, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery- One of the themes I tend to revisit as I think about theology is the idea (fact) that the world is not as it should be. Reading this book gave me a new awareness of just how wrong the world is and why we might want to move beyond the political issues of the day to look afresh at what is happening around us. It isn’t that we should triage this problem to the top of our lists and make it our new social justice fetish. What this book underscored for me is the widespread dismissal of human dignity. It highlights the need for a message of hope that rightly renders God to world and re-explains what it means for humankind to be made in His image.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder- Taleb’s work is interesting on a number of levels. He is, admittedly, a writer who tries to be a bit more spontaneous and less structured.In addition to the idea that there are some things that gain from disorder, Antifragile is incorporates a number of helpful concepts like “skin-in-the-game” and “naive intervention.” Taleb’s work is thought-provoking and offers new categories through which to evaluate the complex challenges around us.
- Mark A. Noel, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind– This books is a follow-up to Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll’s work is always insightful. If you are interested in gaining some insight into the difference Jesus makes to the way we think, I’d recommend this book.
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World– I made a commitment this year to read more fiction. While some of my favorite titles were part of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series, I chose Huxley’s work for this list because of his unique take on the human condition. Brave New World offers a perspective not on the dangers associated with embracing our desires without challenging our own assumptions.
I’m looking forward to more reading in 2020. I’ve already picked up a few new books for the New Year including: Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps, Jenson’s, The Triune Story, and Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. I’ll also be publishing my own book in 2020 entitled Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind. It has been a labor of love writing these essays in 2019 and I’m looking forward to completing the project and starting a few new writing projects. Have a happy New Year everyone…and thanks for reading my musings on Next Gen Christians in 2019!