Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Rewind: Top Ten Books

Just gonna take a quick look back (hopefully without turning into a pillar of salt) at the year that was 2008... we'll start in a literary mode.
Janine Melnitz: You're very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.

Yep, I watched Ghostbusters again the other night... and that little gem stood out like a sore thumb. Seemed like a pretty profound statement back 25 years ago - and yet, here I am still buying & reading those antiquated lumps of paper & glue they call books.

What follows is a list of the ten best books I've read this year in no particular order

  • Faith & Doubt (John Ortberg) - Ortberg deals tenderly & creatively with the tension between faith & doubt... as usual, he writes in a personal, thoughtful style with flashes of humor that is disarming & wise. If I wasn't a pastor myself, I'd probably try to be somewhere I could hear this man teach on a regular basis. The book is probably best for those who believe but are struggling with doubts (for folks who've not yet chosen to believe, I'd probably send them to Tim Keller's "The Reason for God").
  • The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read The Bible (Scot McKnight) - A very well-written book on Biblical interpretation - probably the best I've read that's accessible to non-theologians. McKnight's honesty & willingness to follow the truth where it leads will make liberals & conservatives uncomfortable - and that's a good thing!
  • The Coldest Winter: America & the Korean War (David Halberstam) - I love David Halberstam's way of writing "narrative history" - and it was esp. interesting to learn about the Korean War, which was a giant black hole in my 20th century knowledge. The book was engrossing & informative. In a couple of places late in the book, Halberstam generalizes the lessons learned in Korea to the current war in the Middle East, a leap I'm not sure he fully supports with the evidence. That didn't diminish my personal enjoyment of the book, however - it just reminded me that everyone has a axe to grind. I look forward in 2009 to going back & reading his classic work on Vietnam, The Best & the Brightest...
  • Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs (Bill Hybels) - Bill Hybels has proven over time that he can not only lead a church but can inspire other leaders to lead well - and this book is a distillation of his leadership philosophy into bite-sized pieces. It makes a great companion to his longer book, Courageous Leadership - and in some ways is probably more useful in a staff/volunteer setting where focusing on a short chapter (some are just one page) can really help you flesh out the concepts. If you've been listening to Hybels preach/teach for a long time, there won't be much "new stuff" here... but having these truths succinctly stated is valuable in and of itself. I can't recommend this highly enough - I expect to read it multiple times & use it in my ministry.
  • Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland - Golden Anniversary Edition (David Koenig) - This is the expanded anniversary edition of a book I already love - the added stuff (one chapter on 1955, the accompanying CD walk-through of 1955 Disneyland, and the added tidbits in a number of chapters) is nice but not essential. Still, this is possibly the most enjoyable "behind the scenes" book about Disneyland... written by an author who knows his subject & loves the park. (I actually read the original edition some years back... but the new chapter allowed me to sneak it onto the 2008 list!)
  • It Came From Within: The Shocking Truth About What Lurks Within (Andy Stanley) - I'm still struggling with putting together the premises in the opening chapters of this very good book with the premises in John Eldredge's Waking the Dead... but that doesn't change how helpful this is in dealing with how our inner junk plays out in sinful & destructive ways in our lives & the lives of people around us.
  • The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Tim Keller) -"Mere Christianity" for the postmodern generation... this is a stunning achievement in apologetics. And even as I say that, I'm afraid I'll scare some of you away from reading possibly the best book in the last 50 years to discuss the logical basis for belief in Christianity - please read it anyway!
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Edmund Morris) - A biography that doesn't devolve into hagiography about a profoundly interesting man - police commissioner, cowboy, politician, naturalist, writer, family man... and finally, at the end of the book (the first of two volumes), President of the United States. This was, surprisingly, a page-turner... I carried it with me for a couple of weeks, reading it whenever & wherever I could. (Yes, I plan to read Theodore Rex, the second book of Morris' biography, this spring.)
  • The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identify of Christ (Lee Strobel) - I like all of Lee Strobel's "Case For..." books - but this feels like the best of the bunch to me. His writing is improving with each book, plus this particular book is dealing with recent topics such as Bart E.'s Misquoting Jesus. I also like that he allows the people he's interviewing to speak for themselves. I'd recommend this book to followers of Christ who are wondering about recent attacks on the nature of Jesus and to unchurched folks who have questions about why we believe what we believe
  • unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters (David Kinnaman) - Insightful & thoughtful look at what the younger generations "see" when they see Christianity. Based on survey research & interviews done by the Barna Group, the statistics help back up what many of us in church leadership are already sensing. Read it with Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus But Not the Church to get a one-two sucker punch about how we inside the institutional church are acting like bug zappers rather than a city on a hill when it comes to showing people the love, power & grace of Jesus Christ.


David said...

Mark, thanks for listing unchristian in your top books of the year. that's cool and very encouraging! blessings in 2009. - David Kinnaman

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

David... thanks for commenting.

For the rest of you, that's the author of "unChristian" - I have NO idea how he found us hiding out here under all the board games.