If you’re interested, I thought I’d share my eleven favorite books that I read and finished this year, as well as a short word on why I liked them so much.
Not everyone has the time to read that I am blessed with, so you want to be selective, and maybe this will help pique your interest to a few wonderful writings.
- Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was (2012)–Gerhard Lohfink This is probably the deepest book on Jesus I’ve ever read. And yet it is extremely accessible. I now feel I have finally started to grasp Jesus of Nazareth in His Old Testament & Jewish context. Incredibly enlightening. You think the subtitle is a little bold and daring, like “Who do you think you are to say what He wanted & who He was?” Then you start reading. And you’re like, “Oh…..Wow…..OK.” A big takeaway: Jesus did not do away with the Old Testament; He geniously interpreted it rightly…as no one else ever did.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (2014)-Greg McKeown I’m listening to this for a second time because it was so very good and practically helpful. “Sacrifice the trivial many for the vital few” is the mantra throughout this book, as well as “Less but better.” Most of our life is noise, and here’s how to do what really matters. It’s not that this info is terribly new, it’s that McKeown’s delivery of it is so terribly awesome! I listen to a little bit of this almost daily as a constant, helpful reminder.
- Fully Human, Fully Divine: An Interactive Christology (2004)-Michael Casey This is also the deepest book I’ve probably ever read on Jesus. It is deep in the heart/emotional sense. This Aussie monk, Casey, has become one of my absolute favorite authors this past year after reading Toward God and now this. Amazingly in tune with humanity and able to communicate it more viscerally than most anyone I’ve read.
- Desiring God’s Will: Aligning Our Hearts With the Heart of God (2005)-David Benner This is the 3rd book of a most amazing trilogy, the first two being Surrender to Love & The Gift of Being Yourself. I’d probably put this trilogy second to the Star Wars trilogy. Each one of these I end up putting my highlighter away because I’ll just end up highlighting the entire book. A major helpful idea Benner illumines is the difference of willfulness and willingness, and how it changes our lives.
- Escaping the Matrix: Setting Your Mind Free to Experience Real Life in Christ (2005)-Greg Boyd & Al Larson This is one of the absolute most practical books on how to really live your actual life in Christ. There’s neuroscience, exercises, examples, and plenty of Scripture. So many Christians are not free because they have not allowed Jesus into their subconscious, which is way faster than your conscious mind, and dictates reactions and deep emotions. This book shows you how to let Christ in to the deep recesses of your heart and life. I’ve used one of the exercises, “Experiencing Jesus”, with a couple of groups now, and it’s been deeply moving.
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2012)-Charles Duhigg An extremely well written and fun read on the science of habit. You are a product of your habits, whether you like it or not, for good or for bad! Whether you know it or not, you are in the habit loop of “Cue-Routine-Reward.” Wake up to it, and harness its power!
- Abide in Christ (1882) Andrew Murray Every word of every book I’ve ever read of Andrew Murray is absolute gold. There is never a doubt about this guy’s devotion to Christ, or that he was totally tuned in to the Holy Spirit. You just can’t fake it and write the way this guy writes! I read a couple of Murray books every year no matter what. He wrote a lot of his books in the format of 31 short chapters so as to be digested over the span of a month. If you’ve never read Andrew Murray, then you’re probably not a real Christian. I’M KIDDING. But seriously, go read one of his books immediately.
- The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation (2001)-Frederica Mathewes-Green This little 102 page gem was the “surprise hit” of the year for me. I found it in the clearance section of Half Price Books, not knowing of this author. It looked quite intriguing, and proved to be very formative for me. She reminds us of the mind set of the earliest Christians from the first and second centuries. Their goal was to be one with Christ–no matter what. Their practices all led toward that end. (We sent “Is Theosis Our Telos?” based off this book.)
- The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (2010)-Nicholas Carr As the title states, we are becoming more shallow due to what the internet is doing to our brains. Here’s what’s been said of this masterpiece: “Eloquent,” “Riveting,” “Rewarding,” “Revelatory,” “Grade: A,” “Absorbing [and] Disturbing,” “Essential,” “Provocative,” “A Book Everyone Should Read.” I agree with all of these descriptions. It is incredibly fascinating, packed with history, science, and page-turning eloquence. This was very enlightening, and confirmed many suspicions of the internet dumbing us down as we sacrifice ourselves to it. Also, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
- The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Pespective on Christ and His Message (2008) Cynthia Bourgeault This gives a different angled look at Jesus, helping you to see Him through, most likely, a new lens. She looks at Jesus through the wisdom tradition, yet without taking away from His divinity. And that, is something I really loved about this book. A couple of takeaways were The Welcoming Practice and Kenosis.
- Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God–A Guide to Contemplation (2004)-James Finley One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, to put it simply. And possibly my favorite cover of all time. The title says it all, what most of my life is about these days. So I loved this book with the deepest of loves. Just now I opened the book randomly to page 143, where I have this highlighted: “We meditate that we might live in a habitual awareness of God living in us, for us, and by us in all that we simply are.” BOOM.
This has been fun! Enjoy your day!!