During 2011 I set a goal to read 50 books during the year. I ended up doing exactly that. Some of them were great, others were less great. Overall, I would not say that there were any that were awful. There were definitely some highlights. Some books move so much quicker than others. I actually have come to realize that I really enjoy fiction – mystery, suspense type novels, sometimes historical fiction. I also try to read for personal intellectual growth and also spiritual growth. So without further ado here is…
2011 (Reading) Year in Review
This year I did not have a real plan for what I read. Some books were recommended to me. A few I read to supplement classes or papers I was working on. A lot of them were free on kindle and so were kind of hit or miss. Others I knew I wanted and went ahead and shelled out the money for them. In this post I want to breakdown what I read. This year I hope to be a little more intentional about my reading but I also wanted to take a look back at what I read this past year.
I was pleased overall with the consistency of reading. For 50 books you need to average just about 4 books per month. I started out well with 5 books for the first couple months. I never finished more than 6 and my lowest month (May) I finished just one book. I find that I often have more than one book going at a time. This is one of the major advantages of an e-reader. Based on a situation I can snag a few minutes of a novel when I might not be ready to dig into a more difficult book. It is interesting how many times throughout the year I would finish 2 or 3 or even 4 books within a few days of each other.
What books do I read? Well here is the list broken down by genre. I didn’t divide up my fiction, the majority of it was action/mystery with a few historical fiction novels thrown in. Sometimes it was difficult to differentiate between Christian Living and Theology. I’m out of grad school now and am no longer wading through theological treatise or systematic books so some were apologetics or more devotional commentaries but I felt they could be classified as theology rather than Christian Living.
I was also interested in breaking down my reading in a little bit different way. I wanted to see how my reading corresponded with the four topics I thought I’d end up blogging about here: Culture, Theology, History and Politics. I’ll admit that I probably am using the categories fairly broadly here but that’s my prerogative.
When broken down by topic they came out fairly evenly. With a slight advantage going to theology and politics and then history and culture. I tried to keep a balance of different types of books going at the same time and from a rather cursory overview it looks like I did a good job.
Best of the Books
Here are my top picks of the books I read by topic:
First Prize: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
The biography to read about one of the most interesting figures of the mid-1900s. Gives you a window into life leading up to and through World War 2 in Germany, not just the political realm but also the civil and religious events. Is also a great introduction to a Christian who truly strove to understand what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus, no matter the costs.
Read my full review here: Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas←
Runner-up: One God One Message by P.D. Bramsen
This is a journey that takes the reader from beginning to end through the story of the world’s all time best-selling book, the Bible. It is one part apologetics, one part biblical theology and one part story-telling. It is primarily aimed at monotheists who are interested in learning what the Bible itself really teaches. It is based on the author’s long experience in the Middle East and other Muslim majority countries and also from online interactions email correspondences.
Read my full review here: One God One Message by P.D. Bramsen←
First Prize: God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics by Monica Toft, Daniel Philpott, and Timothy Shah
Does religion matter in global politics? Don’t we live in the secular, modern world? Well then why are we talking about religion? This book argues and then responds to the fact that religion does matter in politics. Going beyond just if people are religious this book looks at how religion influences their actions in ways from terrorism and civil war to peace brokering and transitional justice. They look at two factors that largely help to explain why religious actors do what they do – 1) political theology 2) relation to the state structure. Really enjoyable and compelling book.
Runner-up: The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left by Ed Husain
This is the autobiographical story of a British Muslim growing up into the world of Islamist organizations, becoming a mover and shaker in that world, before ultimately seeing the emptiness of it and looking for something more. I would highly recommend this book.
Read my full review here: The Islamist by Ed Husain←
First Prize: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
An epic true story of the limits to which a man can be pushed and still retain his will to survive. This is a story of Louie Zamperini, someone who if you have not heard about you should, and this is the place to do it. From a world class athlete to a bombardier in the Pacific theater in WWII to a castaway to a POW to a struggling Veteran Louie – and others who shared his experiences – were pushed to unbelievable lengths. Many of them did not survive, for those who did none were the same. This is a great book and well deserving of the many accolades it has received.
Runner-up: The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien
This is a book about one man’s life. It is a fascinating read that will open your eyes to the highs and lows that one can experience in life. It is all about his story and through that it offers plenty of food to consider your own story. It will draw you in – and draw your mind to think about this life – and the One who created this world.
Read my full review here: Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien←
First Prize: How Should We Then Live? (: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis Schaeffer
An insightful book from one of the premier Christian thinkers of the 20th century. In this book Schaeffer traces the rise and fall of western thought and culture. It is a massive undertaking and on the whole he handles it well. In this book he argues how the truth of scripture is relevant for every aspect of life. It is one of the books for Christians looking to answer the question for how they should live and it remains extremely relevant even 35 years after it was first published.
Runner-up: The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies
Impossible to accurately summarize this in just a few sentences. This book is a must read for Christians who are beginning to navigate this new digital world. Really analyzes how technology affects us, our world and our faith. That decision “iPhone or keep my old talking only” is much more than simple addition to your life. It has far reaching affects that The Next Story helps you see and consider.
Honorable Mentions: Think by John Piper, Reset by Stephen Kinzer, Day of War by Cliff Graham, Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef, The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and all the books by Steven James.
Here’s a link to a list of all the books: Reading and Reviews