In 2015 I returned to the written page. Not that I did not read much in 2014. I did. But this year I remained on pace with the good intentions I set each January. Also, I turned to the spoken page this year. It might seem odd that having co-founded an audiobook publisher, I have not in the past been much of an audiobook listener. But an Audible subscription greatly increased my reading and helped redeem my commute. Besides books, I kept my nose in many individual articles, Books & Culture, The Hedgehog Review, and toward the end of the year a fresh subscription to The Economist. As usual, I watched fewer movies. But like so many others, I was smitten by George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road. The most musical plays went to Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Medicine. I am a book guy, though. So here is the annotated list, highlighting favorites.
Edwin Abbot, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Thanks for the recommendation, Jud. Hope you get your mathematics session at Hutchmoot in 2016.
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. Liked it more than Zamyatin’s We, which is saying a lot.
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. 2015 has been a year of growth in personal vulnerability. This was a great read to help process how to be more vulnerable and what might result.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities. I am now a Calvino fan.
Jeremy Caradonna, Sustainability: A History. This is not a “history,” but it is a good overview of the landscape of issues, themes, and writings about sustainability.
Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game. Enjoyed it.
Jeff Van Duzer, Why Business Matters to God: And What Still Needs to Be Fixed. Thoughtful.
Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. At the beginning of the year, I thought I might return to school for a Ph.D. studying institutional repentance and race. I am going in a different direction with my next degree. But digging into the reality of race relations in the United States and within Christian history was a theme of my early reading in 2015.
Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On the Care of Our Common Home. Well done. If this book had been written by someone other than the Pope, it would have received less attention and less criticism. It deserves all of the attention it received and far less criticism. Highly recommended.
Ursula Franklin, The Real World of Technology. I have been telling people that Ursula Franklin is my new favorite Wendell Berry. It was a delight to find this book in a Vancouver used bookstore below the hotel room where I was staying on a business trip. I hope Alan Jacobs pursues his “technological history of modernity,” which is where I first heard about Franklin. If you wonder why you like technology but also feel uncomfortable with it, please read Franklin. She will explain it to you in a delightful way that will give you hope. And there is no need to move to Kentucky when you are done.
Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. This book has been a sensation and I recommend it. Kondo’s approach to simplicity is different than my own. I have some reservations about this book. But those concerns are nuanced.
C. S. Lewis, Miracles. As good as one would expect.
Donella Meadows, “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.” Sneak preview: I almost certainly will be pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability and responsibility from Ashridge Business School in England. That is where I got the tip to dig into Meadow’s succinct overview of systems theory. Very good.
Donella Meadows, Jorgan Randers, and Dennis Meadows, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. First published in 1972, this book was groundbreaking. Technical at times (it describes one of the computer models used to simulate and predict ecological outcomes), it nevertheless is readable. One of the important starting points for anyone interested in sustainability.
Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. My historian friends turn their noses up at this book. And yes, Bonhoeffer was not an American evangelical. But it is still a well-written, mostly accurate, and inspiring biography.
Mark Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. One of the important books on this topic.
Mark Noll, From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story. This was one of the most fun books to read because much of Noll’s “discovery” of global Christianity occurred when I was studying under him at Wheaton College. On a less me-focused note, this is simply a delightful reflection by one of the most gracious and brilliant historians of our times.
Richard Ostrander, Head, Heart, and Hand: John Brown University and Modern Evangelical Higher Education. Institutions were on my mind for much of the year. This is a classy example of a well-written institutional biography.
Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country. The most beautiful book I read this year. By the time Msimangu said, “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating,” I had tears in my eyes.
Russ Ramsey, Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having had high expectations after Behold the Lamb of God, Russ did not disappoint. He is a dear friend. He is an amazing writer who brings the stories of the Bible alive.
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Did not do it for me.
Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?” in Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine. Could be the most life-clarifying thing I read in 2015.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. If you have not already, please read this book. Please. We all need this book to penetrate deep into our souls. By the time you get to this quote, you should be in tears.
I guess I’d always known but never fully considered that being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.
John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Fascinating and bold interpretation of the creation account of Genesis.
N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Wright is a blessing to the church. Sometimes his writing is a touch hard for me to follow.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief. So good. So very, very good.