In a post like this, it bears stating that I read a lot of books, and with very few exceptions, I don’t regret reading any of them. So when it comes to picking which ones were the best — as I am occasionally asked — I find it exceedingly difficult. To get me thinking through the good, the bad and the ugly of what I’ve read over the past year, I took a look at two “best of” lists that I’m inclined to take seriously, both of which I commend to you as thoughtful and well worth checking out: Christianity Today and Heart & Minds Booknotes, the latter of which is put together by Byron Borger, who runs a one-of-a-kind bookstore just across the river from here in York, Pennsylvania. You really need to see it to believe it.
Now for my list. Keep in mind that this includes not just books published in 2010, but any I read during the course of the year. I’m terrible at ranking these sorts of things, so what follows is what you might call a “tithe” of the books I’ve read: the ten best ones, in no particular order, with a brief blurb about why I liked each one so much:
Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith
Takes a look at the six streams of the Christian faith, including how they’re rooted both in the Bible and church history, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each. For a denominational mutt like me, this book was soul medicine.
Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation of the Ways That Jesus is the Way
The third in a five part anthology of “spiritual theology” this book examines the most neglected part of the teaching that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Profound implications on following Christ in all areas of life.
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
It’s a memoir in comic book form about a girl growing up in revolutionary Iran. Need I say more?
Eduardo Galeano, Soccer In Sun and Shadow
Includes short vignettes from each World Cup, set in the context of where history was headed at the time, along with short player biographies and poetic descriptions of the intricacies of the beautiful game.
Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
Turns the ubiquitous idea of “leadership in ministry” on its head, emphasizing that what the world needs isn’t more leaders, but irrelevant servants who live like Jesus. I read it in 2008, 2009 and again in 2010, and I plan to read it regularly throughout my life. It’s very biblical and completely counter-cultural within church as we know it.
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
This was a daunting one to begin, but once I finally got around to reading it, it sucked me right in. The story of a family during the Depression, interspersed with snapshots from the world around them, is epic and its themes are, for better or worse, timeless.
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
This novel was highly recommended to me by multiple people, and it didn’t disappoint. The story of two Jewish boys and their fathers in Brooklyn, whose lives are worlds apart yet inseparably linked.
Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
I hesitate to include this one because I didn’t exactly enjoy it, and neither will you. It’s long and tedious and depressing. But it’s perhaps the most important book I read all year.
Michael Reid, Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul
I made it a point during 2010 to read more books focused on Latin America, and this was probably the one that best captured the mood and the context in the continent at the moment.
G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi
Having read several books about St. Francis already, and even having visited Assisi five years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this. But Chesterton has a masterful way with words and where other biographies of the man who spoke with birds fall short, this one soars.
So, how about you? Which books do I need to add to my list for 2011?