It is time once again to announce my list of books that most impacted me during the year 2011. These are only the books that were published during the past year and that I read. As I lay out this list, I will note that I have several books that I’m currently reading or have on the shelf to read that could be on this list, but alas the New Year has arrived. However, I’m trying out a new format that I borrow from another blogger – Scot McKnight – which allows me to move beyond simply ten books. I will however start with my Book of the Year.
Book of the Year:
Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2011.
I reviewed this book for the print edition of Englewood Review of Books (Vol. 1, Num. 4). I am choosing it in part because it is simply a great book, but more importantly it speaks to an issue that is on my heart – the need to create a politics in the United States that will bind the people together and enable the people to look outward into the world with a positive and non-coercive vision. I will be republishing, with permission, the ERB review for Monday, January 2.
Public Life and History:
Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2011.
Together with Palmer’s book, Volf provides Christians with important tools to engage the public sphere with openness and grace, having as their aim the pursuit of the common good. Review here.
John Fea. Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. Louisville: WJK Press, 2011.
This is one of those books that everyone really does need to read. John Fea has written a very accessible account of the role religion played in the founding of the nation. He makes clear that founding isn't the same thing as planting. Review here.
Craig Goodwin, Year of Plenty. Minneapolis: Sparkhouse Press, 2011.
Craig tells the story of his family’s attempt to live life “close to home,” that is making do with what is locally produced. It is a spiritual journey, but it has public implications related to consumerism and materialism. Review here.
Miroslav Volf: Allah: A Christian Response. San Francisco: Harper One, 2011.
Miroslav Volf establishes the premise that while there are differences in understanding, Christians and Muslims worship and serve a common God. It is this common confession of faith in the one God that makes it possible to overcome the divisiveness. Review here.
Jeffrey C. Pugh. Devil's Ink: Blog from the Basement Office. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.
A more contemporary and relevant attempt to do what C.S. Lewis did in the Screwtape Letters. Here the Devil writes a blog and deals with all the issues of the day from torture to politics to theological matters. Review here.
Thomas G. Long. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011.
This book, which I completed on the last day of the year, competed in my mind and heart for my book of the year. It is written to the preacher as a call to speak to the questions of evil and suffering. It is moving and powerful. Review forthcoming.
Bruce Epperly. Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides For The Perplexed). New York: Continuum, 2011.
I’m not converted, but Bruce has made Process Theology, a liberal theology that speaks to modern concerns, much more accessible and understandable. Review here.Rob Bell. Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. San Francisco: Harper One, 2011.
No book seems to have provoked as much controversy and conversation as has this book. For that reason alone it is worth placing on this list. That said, I did enjoy it and for the most part found it congenial to my way of thinking. Review here.
Rachel Timoner. Breath of Life: God as Spirit in Judaism (Paraclete Guide). Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011.
What a blessing it is to learn about the Spirit of God from a Jewish perspective. Rabbi Rachel Timoner has provided a most needed and empowering study of the Spirit. Review here.
Church and Spirituality:Richard Rohr. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2011.
I found this book by Richard Rohr to be stimulating intellectually and spiritually. It pushes us to move beyond the boxes we create in the first half of life -- necessary boxes -- to living our faith in the world outside the boxes. It is a call to those of spiritual maturity to be mentors and guides to those who are newer to the journey. Review here.
Phil Snider, Editor. The Hyphenateds: How Emergence Christianity is Re-Traditioning Mainline Practices. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2011.
Younger Mainline Protestants have found in the Emergent Movement partners that help provide resources and vision for reenvisioning the church for a new day. Here is a collection of reflections on this journey – some critical, some angry, some pointing a way forward. Review forthcoming.