These are the books I remember reading in 2009. I wrote this at the end of the year, so I’m sure I forgot several. Inspired by Kathy Khang’s list on her blog and Daryl McCarthy’s annual book report to the board of IICS.
Higher Education Related
James Lang – Life on the Tenure Track
An entertaining and insightful memoir about a professor’s first year on the job. If you would like to know more about the life of a professor, this is a good read. Review
George Marsden – The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship
A short classic that argues why distinctively Christian scholarship matters. One of our top recommendations for Emerging Scholars Network members. Tom Grosh and I led an online book discussion on the ESN blog in the fall.
Mary Poplin – Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service
A profound memoir of education professor Mary Poplin’s sabbatical with Mother Theresa. Includes two short appendices about the nature of the university.
Paul J. Silvia – How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
A short, practical book for academics, but with good advice for anyone who wants to write on setting a schedule, tracking your progress, and getting published.
Christian Smith and Patricia Snell – Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
The second in a planned three-book series, Smith follows the teens he surveyed in Soul Searching into their early adult years (ages 18 to 23). Smith looks at how their religious lives change, as well as the factors (parents, friends, church) that affect their religious attitudes and beliefs. A must-read for anyone working this age group.
C. John Sommerville – The Decline of the Secular University
John Sommerville spoke at our 2009 Midwest Faculty Conference, expanding on several topics in this book. In it, he claims that universities have lost their significance because of their secularism, and they can reclaim their influence and true mission only by making room for religious voices.
Theology and the Bible
Augustine – City of God
I’ve been reading Augustine’s 1,000 page masterpiece a few pages at a time for something like a year now, and it continues to reward. Written in response to the fall of Rome, Augustine takes on accusations that Christianity weakened the Roman Empire, then goes on to describe the “two cities” that coexist in history: the city of man and the City of God. I’m up to Book 13 (out of 22).
Gordon Fee – The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)
I spent a few months reading 1 Corinthians and this commentary for my daily devotionals. If you can get through the academic discussions of textual varients and Greek tenses (or if you enjoy them), Fee’s exegesis and application will challenge the way you live and read the Bible.
Leighton Ford – The Attentive Life
Ford uses the traditional “hours of prayer” to suggest a pattern in both our daily life and the course of our lives. An excellent book for anyone looking for structure or a way to see God in their life.
Veli-Matti Karkkainen â€” An Introduction to the Theology of Religions: Biblical, Historical & Contemporary Perspectives
How big of a nerd do you have to be to love reading a textbook about the theology of religions?
Don Piper – 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life
The near-death experience of pastor Don Piper. I was expecting a sensationalistic and preachy book about “following the light;” instead, I found a powerful meditation on death, heaven, and life. Recommended by my friend Eric Ford.
Francis Schaeffer – Art And the Bible: Two Essays
Two short essays. The first looks at the occurance of art throughout the Bible, the second suggests a Christian approach to art (which reveals more about Schaeffer’s personal preferences than a universal Christian aesthetic).
Pete Sommer – Getting Sent: A Relational Approach to Support Raising
I read this book for a very practical reason â€” raising money â€”. However, Sommer’s perspective brings a personal touch to what can be a very impersonal aspect of my work.
Phyllis Tickle – The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why
Tickle argues that Christianity goes through a major change every 500 years and that we are in the midst of one such change right now. I didn’t buy her argument because I think it was too simplistic and too focused on the Western Church (and because I’m not convinced that “emerging churches” are as significant as she claims).
Who Gets to Narrate the World?
Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative
These were the last two books completed by Robert Webber, a theologian of worship and the early church who died in 2007. Each of these books argue that narrative should be the shaping force in our lives and worship â€” specifically, the narrative of God’s story throughout history.
N. T. Wright â€” Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
What does the resurrection of Jesus tell us about our ultimate destiny? What does the resurrection tell us about our life in the present? Wright combines world-class scholarships with a pastor’s tone.
The Emperor of Ocean Park
New England White
One of my new favorite authors. Carter, a leading legal scholar who teaches at Yale, started a new career as a novelist several years ago, with a specialty in complex mysteries set among upper-middle class African American families involved in higher education and politics.
Chuck Klosterman – Downtown Owl
A nice first novel from essayist Klosterman, set in the days leading up to a devestating snowstorm in his native North Dakota.
Ursula K. LeGuin – The Left Hand of Darkness
What would human society be like if our gender were flexible and temporary? This science fiction novel, set far in the future, records the experience of a diplomat from Earth making “first contact” with a long-forgotten human colony.
The Shadow of the Torturer
The Claw of the Conciliator (available together as Shadow and Claw)
Gene Wolfe, where have you been all my life? Wow. This guy will keep me reading new novels (new to me, at least) for a long time. These two are the first in a four-book series set thousands of years in the future, about the rise of a exiled torturer to the rank of emperor. Christian images abound.
FreeDarko Presents The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today’s Game
If you like the NBA and/or bizarre sports writing, read this book.
David Allen – Getting Things Done
My annual refresher.
David Halberstam – The Breaks of the Game
Recommended by sportswriter Bill Simmons as the best sports book ever written,it did not disappoint. David Halberstam follows a year in the life of the Portland Trailblazers, illuminating both the individuals who play, coach, and manage basketball and the larger forces of race, money, and fame that shape their lives.
Chip and Dan Heath – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
I listened to this audiobook over the summer. These two brothers, both from academic backgrounds, dissect what makes ideas “stick.” It’s fueled my thinking about how to communicate the vision of ESN to others.
Chuck Klosterman – Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas
A collection of amusing and thoughtful essays, mostly about rock bands and pop culture. His visit to Val Kilmer’s ranch will blow your mind.