Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

January 02, 2005

My Reading Year

I read a lot of good books in 2004, but only a few great ones. In 2005 I want to increase the ratio of great to good. I know that Christian advertising (that's an oxymoron if there ever was one) seems to regard every book published under a Christian imprint as somehow "life changing," but I discover that very few books are truly that. Still, that rather vague term, "life changing," has sometimes infiltrated our own mental store of hyperbole, so that you will hear people declare, after having only just finished reading the latest Christian bestseller, that the book has changed their life. I find this kind of talk naive. Books, the rare and wonderful ones, do change our lives, and some few might do so in rather momentous ways, but most, even the best, have a marginal and incremental impact. I mean, folks, the flesh is tenacious! Life, that over-arching syllable we use to describe everything we are and everything we do, is like an iceberg--not so easily turned.

All that having been said, I want to recap my reading list in 2004. What follows is a list of the books I read, sorted into broad categories.

The Tolkein and Lewis books were the best in this category. There's no way to pick one as the stand-out. Both these authors have effected my thinking deeply, and all of these books were "rereads" for me. Lewis thought that one should only read books that are are worth rereading. Not many of the books on this list meet that standard, but the Tolkein and Lewis titles are worth rereading any number of times. They enriched my reading year.

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Shadow of the Torturer
The Flame Tree

Only two in this category, but both excellent. I pledged to myself when I put down L'Engle's Walking on Water that I would read more of her non-fiction, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Walking on Water
Tuesdays with Morrie

Some excellent titles here. Washington's Crossing is a wonderful book, and Quenching the Spirit, while it's not a thorough history of revival, provides an interesting and informative take on how some revivals have been "quenched." The Long Truce is more a book of powerful ideas than a historical narrative, and probably one that deserves to be read again.

Paul Revere's Ride
Washington's Crossing
The Long Truce
Quenching the Spirit

Christian (Inspirational)
This is that catch-all Christian category, the category that has helped put Christian publishing "on the map." It's the category that gives Christian publishing a reputation for shallowness at times, and yet it's the category most represented in my reading list for 2004. If I were to pick one outstanding title in this lot, it would be God's Relentless Pursuit. Only because it's by an author I know personally and admire a good deal.

The Power of Encouragement
Ruthless Trust
The Power of Encouragement
Ragman and Other Cries of Faith
God's Relentless Pursuit
Messy Spirituality
by the Word

Authentic Faith
The Call
Crafted Prayer

Christian (Theological)
These are the Christian tomes of a more serious and perhaps even scholarly nature. The one book on this list that stands out is The Meaning of Hope. That's an outstanding little book, now undeservedly out-of-print.

The Message of the New Testament
The Story of the New Testament
The Meaning of Hope
The Sacrifice of Christ
Your Sons and Your Daughters Shall Prophesy
Showing the Spirit
The Challenge of Jesus

And that's almost the lot of them. Except for the following award winners. The Silliest-and-Most-Incosequential-Piece-of-Fluff Award for 2004 goes to:
Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs

Hey, but I got a few laughs out of it. "Inconsequential," but funny.

The award for Most Over-hyped, Over-rated, Over-talked-about, and Over-blown Book of 2004 (you guessed it):
The Purpose Driven Life

Finally, saving the best for last, I chose the following book as the stand-out book of my reading year. It's also a reread, and I hope I am not done mining its wisdom.
Dietrich Bonheffer's Life Together

So there you have it: my reading year. In my next post I hope to discuss my reading-goals for 2005.


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